For 40 years, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group® (RTOG®) has been a recognized leader in working to increase survival and improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Based in Philadelphia, RTOG is a key clinical research component of the American College of Radiology (ACR) and serves as a multi-institutional, international clinical cooperative group funded primarily by the National Cancer Institute.
The RTOG was initially organized in 1968 under the direction of Dr. Simon Kramer at Thomas Jefferson University as a national clinical cooperative group for the purpose of conducting radiation therapy research and cooperative clinical investigations. Funding from the National Cancer Institute began in 1971 and by 1981 the group headquarters, statistical and data management operations were located in the Philadelphia office of the ACR. The Group has grown considerably since the activation of its first study in 1968, a randomized trial evaluating the addition of concurrent methotrexate to radiation for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck region. The study employed combinations of radiation, methotrexate, and surgery in the treatment of advanced head and neck cancer and is considered a milestone in interdisciplinary clinical efforts. The over 700 patients enrolled to this study formed the baseline for many of the clinical investigations in the area of head and neck cancer.
Since its inception, the Group has activated 460 protocols, accrued a total of approximately 90,000 patients to cooperative group studies, and published more than 800 papers reporting the results of its findings. RTOG provides an infrastructure for clinical investigators from the United States, Canada, and international sites to seek more effective treatments for cancer.
RTOG continues to be the leading multicenter research organization systematically testing novel radiotherapy approaches against cancer and pursuing fully integrated translational and quality of life research to support and further this effort. RTOG is also a leader in formally evaluating the integration of optimized radiotherapy with new classes of anti-cancer therapies and has completed and conducted a number of practice- and paradigm-changing trials. RTOG maintains a roster of 40 active studies devoted to the group's primary disease sites: central nervous system, head & neck, lung, gastrointestinal (esophagus, stomach, pancreas, anal canal, and rectum), genitourinary (bladder and prostate), breast, and cervix.
The RTOG is a dynamic multidisciplinary group with vigorous participation by physicians and other researchers from over 300 of the leading academic and community medical facilities in the United States, Canada and internationally, including nearly 90 percent of all NCI-designated comprehensive and clinical cancer centers and many of the major academic and regional centers of Canada. This participation includes leadership from medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, and laboratory scientists as well radiation oncologists. All Group research efforts seek to be transformational in nature, with the goal of improving the quantity and quality of survival of cancer patients.
Below are some of RTOG's recent contributions to clinical science:
RTOG is the first U.S. research organization to coordinate an international brain tumor trial. This landmark study, employing high-dose temozolomide after radiotherapy for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients, is a joint effort between the RTOG and the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). The RTOG coordinated the study and enrolled 1,174 patients from RTOG member institutions in the United States and Canada and from EORTC members across Europe.
Brain Metastases - RTOG improved survival by more than 33 percent for patients with a single brain metastasis by using whole brain radiotherapy followed by stereotactic radiosurgery instead of whole brain treatment alone.
Head and Neck Cancer - In a study for patients with high-risk head and neck cancer, RTOG discovered that participants who received chemotherapy together with radiotherapy after surgery were far less likely to have a recurrence of cancer.
Lung Cancer - RTOG found that healthier patients with inoperable non-small-cell lung cancer had better results if they received chemotherapy during their course of radiotherapy rather than before radiotherapy.
Pancreatic Cancer - An intergroup trial led by RTOG showed significantly improved survival for patients with advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma when they received the drug, gemcitabine, in addition to standard therapy after surgery.
Prostate Cancer - RTOG determined that radiotherapy combined with long-term hormone suppression significantly improves survival for men with high-grade prostate cancer (Gleason score 8-10). However, men with locally advanced prostate cancer (Gleason score 2-6) benefit most from hormonal suppression prior to their radiotherapy.