SSM Health partners with research organization to expand access to clinical trials

February 2024

Patient Maria Yelle talks with Dr. Michelle Mackay, a radiation oncologist, at SSM Health Cancer Care in Madison, Wisconsin. A partnership between SSM Health and research organization Circuit Clinical will launch in Madison and connect patients with cancer to more research trials and treatments.


SSM Health and research organization Circuit Clinical announced a partnership that will "significantly expand" access to clinical trials and treatments for patients with cancer.

SSM Health will launch the collaboration in Madison, Wisconsin, building on an existing oncology clinical research program. After the launch, the two organizations said they plan to expand into other therapeutic clinical areas across SSM Health's footprint in Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

They announced the partnership Jan. 31.

SSM Health said it treats more than 65,000 cancer patients each year across the system, including underserved populations in urban and rural areas. More than 80% of those patients are treated in community medical centers, which means it may not be easy for them to participate in trials performed at larger hospitals with academic medical practices.


"By doing this, we're going to be able to open up access to so many more patients who historically haven't had access to clinical research trials," said Grady Brimley, SSM Health's system vice president of health transformation. "I think it'll be great in that it helps us get access to really high-quality, world-class leadership in this space without having to build it all ourselves."

Brimley said the partnership also means SSM Health physicians will be able to offer access to clinical trials that had required referrals to a different health system, which presents challenges in providing continuity of care.

In addition to advancing the system's existing oncology research program in Madison, SSM Health said the Circuit Clinical partnership will bolster its overall clinical research capacity, which includes collaboration with Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Circuit Clinical is an integrated research organization based in Buffalo, New York. It specializes in finding and improving access to clinical research, according to a press release. It connects doctors and patients to trials and does its own research as well.

SSM Health doctors will have access to Circuit Clinical resources. At the same time, Circuit Clinical employees will look for trials that might be a good fit for patients and suggest them. Researchers and employees with Circuit Clinical will be embedded in SSM Health care sites.


Dr. Ryan Porter, an oncologist with SSM Health in Madison, said he and other oncologists are optimistic about the program and are eager to participate.

"There are a lot of pieces that go into performing clinical trials," said Porter. "Some of that is having the right connections and networking. The hope is as this partnership grows, they understand our patient population and needs and use their relationships to make those connections. So we're really looking forward to that. I think that's a real strength that they bring to the table."

Dr. Irfan Khan, founder and CEO of Circuit Clinical, said in a press release: "This transformational partnership with SSM Health represents a meaningful step forward in how patients access oncology clinical trials as a care option. We share SSM Health's commitment to deliver clinical trials to cancer patients as part of their health equity mission. By building a successful oncology clinical research program with SSM Health, we know that cancer patients across the health system will benefit from the incredible work of our teams and have the chance to help advance cancer treatments for all."

SSM Health also will have access to Circuit Clinical's broader services, such as research and partnerships with pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies.


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