Clinical Trials — How they Promote Economic Development

“For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”    —  Millard Fuller


We have discussed in a previous post the advantages clinical trials may offer to current and future cancer patients.   In short, they benefit from the fact that new treatments are brought from the lab to the bedside.  I can think of no more important reason to support clinical trials.

Nonetheless, there is an additional reason for supporting clinical trials – they help foster economic development.    That is a significant reason why we who live in or have connections with the Milwaukee area should support the Clinical Trials Office of the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).


One way in which an increase in clinical trials would foster economic growth in Milwaukee is because more trials will attract an increased number of patients and their families to MCW.  As a result MCW will need to hire additional professional and other staff to support the larger number of patients and make sure that its facilities are sufficient to meet the demand.   Additionally, those patients and their families that come to Milwaukee from out of the area to participate in a clinical trial will use the area’s hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality offerings, thus providing a direct benefit to the hospitality and related businesses in the area.

A second manner in which an increase in clinical trials performed at MCW will promote economic development in Southeastern Wisconsin is because they will materially enhance MCW’s quest to be designated as a Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  As explained in a prior post, such a designation is of great significance to cancer patients in the community.   Additionally, such a designation is prestigious and adds value in ways that cannot be quantified.  There are only 67 NCI designated Cancer Centersin the US.    (NCI Cancer Centers)

Such a designation brings, however, more than increased prestige.  To be granted by NCI the designation as an NCI Cancer Center means that the institution has established that it is committed to research and the development of more effective approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.  (NCI Standards)   As the NCI explains on its website, NCI designated Cancer Centers generally undertake several missions, including: i)  undertaking innovative cancer research that spans laboratory science, clinical research, and population-based research;  ii)  offering access to clinical trials of experimental treatments, be they promising new drugs or the use of existing drugs to attack another form of cancer;  iii)  providing scientists, physicians, and surgeons with highly specialized training or board certification in cancer fields;  and iv)  offering cancer prevention and screening to under-served populations in their community.  (NCI Standards)

The NCI recognizes that communities derive significant benefits from an NCI Cancer Center designation.  As it states:  “The NCI grant funding that accompanies the designation supports shared resources for research, provides developmental funds to advance scientific goals, and fosters cancer programs that draw investigators from different disciplines together. Certain opportunities to apply for research and other initiatives are targeted specifically to cancer centers. As part of this unique national network, centers also gain local and national prestige, and this often leads to increased interest and support from philanthropic sources, as well as the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. The institutions that house the cancer centers commit significant resources and support, as well.”  (NCI Designation Benefits)

The University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is, like MCW, a medical center seeking an NCI Cancer Center designation.  In its website, it explains that: “With an NCI designation, Sylvester could draw a larger pool of top-tier cancer physicians and researchers and their teams who would provide Florida residents with more cutting-edge cancer treatment options. By expanding its research campus, Sylvester also will be investing in the economy – creating new, high-wage jobs.”  (University of Miami – Benefits of NCI Designation)   Indeed, based on a study of the issue, Sylvester estimates that an NCI designation will have an overwhelming economic impact on the local Miami economy.   (University of Miami – Economic Impact Study)   In its recent and successful attempt to achieve an NCI Cancer Center designation, the University of Kansas estimated that its pursuit of the designation created 1,123 jobs and had a regional economic impact of $453 million.  (University of Kansas – Benefits of NCI Designation)

Similar public health and economic benefits can be seen in Milwaukee if MCW achieves the NCI designation.  The quest to achieve that designation is of key importance to this community in terms of economic development.  Those benefits, however, are secondary to the direct benefits to patients.


In summary, we see that a cancer center designation translates not only to the assistance of current and future cancer patients in the community (clearly, the number one goal), but it also directly and indirectly fosters economic development in the area.  Specifically, economic development in Milwaukee would be promoted because the designation of MCW as an NCI Cancer Center will:  i)  increase Milwaukee’s image as a highly regarded bioscience research center, thus serving as a entree to bring new bioscience and information related businesses to the area;  ii)  attract significant research monies from the National Cancer Institute to allow MCW to undertake even additional ground-breaking cancer research; iii)  attract brilliant scientists and researchers to undertake that research; and  iv)  enhance the overall image and prestige of the Milwaukee County Research Park, with which MCW is affiliated, and hence this city.



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