Chapter 14: The Research Committee; The Surveillance Committee

Chapter 14: The Research Committee; The Surveillance Committee



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Dr. Alexanian explains the roles of the Research and Surveillance Committees in this chapter. He begins with the Research Committee and notes that it was most likely established by Dr. Clark to advise faculty on their research projects and make sure that projects did not overlap. He describes how the process worked and gives some examples of issues discussed. Dr. Alexanian explains that the Surveillance Committee was created when the NIH required that institutions evaluate their patient protection procedures and contracted with institution individually to formalize these procedures.



Publication Date



The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - An Institutional Unit; Institutional Processes; MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Snapshot; MD Anderson Impact; Devices, Drugs, Procedures; MD Anderson Culture; Institutional Mission and Values; This is MD Anderson; Building/Transforming the Institution; Multi-disciplinary Approaches

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History


Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Would you like to tell me a bit about some of these committees that you were working on? Because they kind of came at interesting times. One of them was, that you were on pretty early, 1971, various times over the course of your career into the mid-eighties was the Research Committee. What exactly was that?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yes. In those days, the Research Committee, that was first established by Dr. Clark so that representatives from different disciplines, surgery, radiation, so on, could advise a doctor on his research project to see if they could participate, they could make some suggestions. This was not like the Regulatory Committee now. It was, as I mentioned earlier, to offer improvements and suggestions.

Part of it was developed so that—part of the rationale was that if there were some research in an area, that it wouldn’t offend or step on the toes of another department that was also—instead of operating, they were radiating or something like that. So it was a way of keeping peace among departments. He transformed the wording in terms of contributing to the work, but in the background it was not muscling in on my territory. If I don’t want to give radiation and I just want to operate, I just want to operate. Or if I want to give radiation, I just want to radiate, so, blah, blah, blah, blah. So it was meant to meld the group, and this was a very healthy process.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD


Raymond Alexanian, MD

There was some heads clashed and so—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Do you remember some incidences, some specific incidences where—I mean. (laughs)

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yeah. It’s so long ago. I guess as the chairman I was considered the peacemaker since I—in those days, the forces of the clashing was surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy was kind of new, but then as chemotherapy became more and more successful, as I mentioned with the combined therapy, you see the combined therapy led to cures, whereas before, the individual therapies did not. So it was a transforming model, Hodgkin’s disease. So then as much as possible, this was incorporated, and then—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

So then how did it work? I mean, so someone would come—

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Submit a project in writing, and this would be reviewed by two people, and that would be presented to the committee with the sponsoring person present. He would hear the clash of—I think that’s the way it went. And as a moderator, I would devote certain time, and also since you’d have the written opinions of the critiques, you’d try to see how much common ground could be covered.

Sometimes it was something like, oh, what’s a good way of getting funding for this, or who’s the funding agency, or could we work with some other centers or cooperative center. So it was a way of—or there may have been some need for another hospital nearby who had a procedure that we couldn’t do, like kidney biopsies. This is something we didn’t do here but could be done at other centers. So we would discuss these. I’m not saying that [unclear]. So at least it was meant to be a scientific clinical discussion of what would be the best way of moving this forward, and then at the same time we would try to give the investigator newer, maybe go a little further, go a little faster, go a little in this direction. So it was a resource.

Then as the years went by and the regulatory apparatus from the NIH required what we called patient protection, evidence of patient protection, and so we had what we called a Surveillance Committee.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

I noticed that too, right.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

I was on that too.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah. That was [unclear].

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Those were two different committees at the time. So in some ways we’ve continued that. We call it something—another name.

So the project that you’d submitted would pass the Research Committee, then would come to this other committee to make sure that the requirements that we had—each center makes a contract with the NIH in terms of how they are going to protect patients. It’s called—the document is called something. It’s a contract, and I don’t know what you call it. So you work out—in other words, you say you have to meet the criteria that are set up by the NIH, and each center has these. So there are about several thousand of these throughout the country, and each center is unique. It doesn’t have the same one. So it indicates that you’re going to have a written consent for any new procedure, and then you have the consent forms. You have consent forms for each of the procedures. So it goes through all the requirements. So that was the second committee, the Surveillance Committee.

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Chapter 14: The Research Committee; The Surveillance Committee