Interview with Dr. Albert DeNittis
Co-Principal Investigator of the Main Line Health CCOP
Dr DeNittis, what do you do for your CCOP?
As the Co-Principal Investigator (PI) of the Main Line Health CCOP, I primarily oversee NCI-funded cooperative group trials as well as a few industry sponsored trials. Our CCOP has been continuously funded for 18 years and has just been awarded another 3 year extension on our grant. Main Line Health CCOP is a consortium of 4 hospitals and is one of the largest medical providers in the State of Pennsylvania. Together, we provide patients of Philadelphia an avenue to receive university level care without actually having to go into the city.
What research are you mainly focused on? Why?
I am interested in both trials which evaluate the prevention of side effects and new treatment trials. Particularly trials that will make it easier for patients either to complete treatment without toxicity or new shorter fractionation schema. For instance, I like trials which hypofractionate treatment delivery for patients with lung cancer and prostate cancer. It seems that what we learned in residency as far as late side effects with larger daily doses of radiation might not be correct. This will be of great benefit to the patient in that it will shorten treatment courses. I also am interested in the use of IMRT and new technology in the treatment of rectal cancer and have presented data nationally.
How have you or your institution benefitted from your work with the RTOG CCOP?
Both my institution and I benefit greatly from having a CCOP. It allows us to stay on the forefront of current treatment methodology. The RTOG CCOP is part of a large group of national recognized physicians who meet twice a year to promote cutting edge ideas and initiate new clinical trials. The approval process is rigorous and can take an entire year to approve new trials. This pushes academic as well as community programs to stay current and provide great patient care. Finally our research and outcomes are published at the end of study accrual, presented at national meetings, which often leads to new standards of care.
What are some RTOG trials you have been involved with and what impact has the work your CCOP has done had on them?
At Main Line Health CCOP we try to open as many studies as we can. If a study isn’t open the institution can’t accrue. We have been very successful in the past with our commitment to a trial once open. For instance, we took part in RTOG 0235, which was spearheaded by Mitch Machtay MD Chair of Case Western. This trial assessed the role of PET scan and its utility in measuring tumor response. The response in turn may provide us with the ability to adapt radiation treatments tailored to a specific patient. This is truly personalized medicine. We placed the most patients on this trial in the entire nation. Another example was our participation in RTOG 0841, to which we enrolled 48 patients. This study screened for depression in the cancer patient and included use of the NCCN Distress Scale. Main Line Health was in the top three accruers to this study nationally. The CCOP provides a mechanism to bring cutting edge medicine to the community, providing us physicians the opportunity to make an impact on patients’ lives
What direction would you like to see future research from your CCOP headed in? What are some upcoming projects the CCOP is involved in?
I am very happy with our participation thus far. We are currently actively enrolling patients into RTOG 0933 which assesses the prevention of memory loss in WBRT by using current IMRT technology to avoid the hippocampus. We are also active in putting patients on RTOG 1012, the Manuka honey study, which will try to be a natural alternative in preventing radiation induced esophagitis. One area we may be able to improve upon is bringing to RTOG some of the exciting funded translational projects we have going on here at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research. Some of these projects may be able to be initiated on a national level through the RTOG itself.
What would you like to say to other researchers who may be interested in becoming involved with RTOG as a CCOP?
Becoming a member gives you an opportunity to GET INVOLVED. The group makes you feel immediately welcome and always provides a mechanism for you to express creativity and interest.