The Cancer Research Network (CRN) facilitates cancer research in a consortium of non-profit health care systems. Supported by the National Cancer Institute since 1999, the CRN has catalyzed over 200 research projects across the spectrum of cancer care, from primary prevention and early detection to treatment and end-of-life care.

Among its signature infrastructure accomplishments, the CRN developed and implemented the Virtual Data Warehouse (VDW), in which data from each health care system’s electronic health records and administrative databases are extracted and conformed to a common data model. With common formats across the participating institutions of the CRN, collaborative research projects are greatly facilitated.    

CRN studies include those that rely solely on data from our health systems, and those that include enrollment of study participants with primary data and biospecimen collection. Most CRN institutions participate in oncology clinical trials, and many have participated in NIH research initiatives in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment. The CRN remains committed to fostering cancer research collaborations in our healthcare settings.



Advantages of Conducting Research in our Settings


Our network is comprised of over 100 research scientists focused on diverse aspects of cancer, a history of collaboration within and beyond the CRN, and extensive multisite research experience. CRN investigators are familiar with their health systems and their structures, operations, leadership, and clinical activities.


These learning health care systems are committed to quality improvement and translational research, providing opportunities for applying research findings directly to the care process. This real-world setting makes the results of CRN research broadly generalizable and applicable to health care improvement.


Member populations are representative of CRN site communities. Racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and age diversity enables studies of health inequities, including identifying disparities that persist within insured populations. With long-term retention of health plan members, the CRN is an ideal setting for longitudinal studies that benefit from information from clinical databases, including investigations of care over time, disease trajectories, and long-term outcomes.


Providers include specialists and subspecialists in primary care, oncology, surgery, radiology, and other areas. CRN researchers work with these providers to identify research questions and translate findings into practice. The large provider network also enables investigators to study providers’ knowledge, beliefs, and practices, and relationships among these domains and patient outcomes.


The CRN setting provides the potential for intervention studies at the patient, provider and system level, including multilevel interventions, cluster-randomized trials, and pragmatic clinical trials.  For standard clinical trials, member loyalty and trust and automated rapid case identification facilitates patient recruitment, follow-up and retention.


Our data includes comprehensive diagnosis, procedure, pathology, cancer registry, utilization and pharmacy data. EMRs enable identification of patients soon after diagnosis or other key events.  Pathology and tumor databases enable identification of cancerous and precancerous tumors for linkage to patient outcomes. CRN investigators have harmonized informatics resources, including the VDW common data model and implementation of the PopMedNet™ distributed query tool to facilitate collaborations.