IWK part of North America-wide research team in children’s cancer

Posted by

After receiving a 998 page document for review, understandably some people might stifle a small groan at the task ahead. But the staff in the Children’s Oncology Group office feel differently, they’re excited.

Those nearly 1,000 pages are a new study into children’s cancer that’s going to be available at the IWK Health Centre, and around the world.

The number of children diagnosed with pediatric cancer is relatively small so in order to keep advancing treatments, studies need to take a multi-centre approach. Children’s Oncology Group (COG) is a North America-based organization that provides clinical research trials for children diagnosed with cancer. The IWK is one of only 16 Canadian member institutions (220+ total) and is currently active in 60 different studies.

“Being a member of COG gives us access to additional world class investigators within pediatric oncology. It’s networking at its best,” says Tina Bocking, lead clinical research associate for the IWK COG office.

A team of six make up the COG office which is part of the larger Hematology/Oncology team at the IWK. Together with departments from all across the health centre, they work to operationalize studies and make them available by keeping in compliance with regulatory bodies.

LEFT: Back row L-R: Erin MacKinnon, administrative research assistant; Deb Parker, RN clinical research associate; MaryJean Howitt, RN regional clinical trial coordinator. Front row L-R: Dr. Conrad Fernandez, IWK COG principal investigator; Tina Bocking, RN, lead clinical research associate. Missing: Shelly Hollett, RN clinical research associate. RIGHT: L-R: Tina Bocking, Shelly Hollett, Erin MacKinnon

“COG is a vital component of the oncology division and it truly takes a village. We have amazing partnerships with international experts, other institutions and departments within the IWK. The commitment of the staff on the oncology service and other IWK departments is unbelievably impressive,” says Bocking.

Through their commitment and collaboration, the COG office is able to offer every eligible child diagnosed with pediatric cancer in the Maritimes the most current treatment options.

Study outcomes become the backbone of care at the IWK. When a new study comes in, it needs to be reviewed not only by the COG office, but all IWK oncologists and relevant experts across the organization. Studies are further scrutinized by the Research Ethics Board and staff involved in carrying out care plans need specific training. Once a study is approved, enrollment begins, customized care is provided and all the while, detailed data collection and regulatory work continues.

“The amount of commitment, expertise and resources required to be a member of the COG at the institutional level is enormous, but the return is ten-fold,” says Bocking. “The long term survival rates of children with cancer have improved greatly over the last 30 years. And that’s because of research.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Read more: