UCHealth, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers Lead Denver’s Robust, Growing Clinical Trial Industry
“The Clinical Trials Landscape series is a derivative of the proprietary database transformation that www.trialjourney.com is based on.” said Dr. Irfan Khan, CEO of Circuit Clinical. “With this project, we aim to provide patients as well as healthcare providers and administrators across the country with new insights that will help them understand and choose clinical research as a care option.” Denver’s landscape is indicative of success in the clinical trial industry despite being a relatively smaller market, with UCHealth as the top historical performer and several others growing significantly.
Despite being ranked as the 17th-largest Designated Market Area (DMA) in the country by Nielsen in 20173 and the 15th-largest Combined Statistical Area (CSA)5, Denver ranks higher on the list of top metropolitan areas for clinical trials. The greater Denver area includes nearby cities such as Aurora and Boulder, and extends southward to include Littleton, Centennial, and others while also encompassing the area as far north as Greeley. According to the TrialJourney database, an estimated 15,386 clinical trials have been conducted in the Denver CSA, placing it 12th in the nation in this regard1. More trials have been conducted in Denver than several cities with higher DMA ranks, such as Dallas (14,309 trials and ranked 5th by Nielsen), Atlanta (14,477 trials and ranked 10th by Nielsen), Tampa (9,636 trials and ranked 11th), Phoenix (9,775 trials and ranked 12th), and Minneapolis (15,094 trials and ranked 15th)1,3. Denver also compares favorably to the market ranked immediately after it by Nielsen, Orlando, which has a trial volume nearly half that of Denver’s (7,825)1,3.
Distribution of Clinical Trials per Zip Code1
The Orlando CSA is also among the most immediate comparables to Denver on the basis of population; despite a difference in population of only about 150,000 (Denver’s has a population of 3,515,374 residents whereas Orlando’s is 3,361,321), Denver’s trial volume nearly doubles Orlando’s. Other CSAs with relatively similar populations include Minneapolis (3,946,533), Portland (3,239,335), and St. Louis (2,911,823), which have all conducted fewer trials than Denver (15,094, 9,172, and 12,651, respectively). Most of Denver’s closest comparables in terms of trial volume are also comparable on population; however, roughly 1,000 more trials have been conducted in Denver than Dallas despite the latter having more than twice the population of Denver (7,847,110)1,5.
Clinical Trials in Denver-Aurora CSA (2018)1
10 Years of the Top 5 Clinical Trial Hospitals in Denver-Aurora CSA (2018)1
The most active health system in the Denver CSA is UCHealth, with 1,126 active* clinical trials in 2018, accounting for a quarter (25.7%) of all such trials in the area last year. Following UCHealth is Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, a network of cancer treatment sites that extends throughout the state of Colorado, which had 766 active clinical trials in the Denver CSA in 2018 (17.5% of its total). HealthONE was the third-most active health system in Denver’s clinical trial industry last year with 488 active trials; this total comprised 11.2% of the CSA’s active trials. Centura Health and Children’s Hospital Colorado round out the top 5 in Denver, with 377 and 363 active trials in 2018 (8.6% and 8.3% of Denver’s total), respectively. Two additional health systems in the greater Denver area boasted an output of over 100 active trials last year, as well: National Jewish Health (198) and SCL Health (178). The most active individual location in Denver last year was the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, with 592 active trials; this campus alone accounted for 13.5% of active trials in the CSA. This was followed by Children’s Hospital Colorado at the Anschutz Medical Campus (357 active trials in 2018), UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital (231 active trials in 2018), the UCHealth Anschutz Cancer Pavilion (222 active trials in 2018), and the National Jewish Health Medical Center (138 active trials in 2018). Despite Denver’s trial volume, only two additional locations had more than 100 active trials last year: the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center’s Denver Midtown location (with 117) and the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (with 107). This speaks to the depth that Denver has in terms of locations conducting significant amounts of clinical trials; 30 different locations in Denver had at least 60 active clinical trials last year1.
Denver’s overall trial output has seen steady growth from year-to-year, more than doubling over the past decade; it has gone from totals of 2,076 active trials in 2008 to 4,376 in 20181. As such, many of its locations are driving this growth with notable acceleration of their own. At the top, the Anschutz Medical Campus has nearly quadrupled its trial volume over the last ten years, going from 152 active trials in 2008 to its 2018 total of 592. Children’s Hospital Colorado has more than tripled, growing from 93 active trials in 2008 to 357 in 2018, and the University of Colorado Hospital has gone from 44 active trials in 2008 to 231 last year. Other locations that have seen significant growth include the National Jewish Medical Center (62 active trials in 2008 to 138 in 2018), the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (from 10 active trials in 2008 to its 2018 total of 107), Denver Health Medical Center (46 active trials in 2008 and 94 in 2018), Parker Adventist Hospital (6 active trials in 2008, 67 in 2018), Littleton Adventist Hospital (8 active trials in 2008, 65 in 2018), the Swedish Cancer Care Center (a single active trial in 2009 to 48 last year), and National Jewish Health Western Hematology and Oncology (a single active trial in 2013 to 35 in 2018) among others1.
Alternative Clinical Centers in Denver-Aurora CSA (2018)1
Denver’s alternative clinical trial sites are dominated by Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, which boasts the ten most active of these sites in the area, each also making significant contributions to the growth evident in Denver’s landscape. In descending order, this network’s most active locations in the Denver CSA are at Denver Midtown (117 active trials in 2018, growing from a 2008 total of 44), Aurora (10 active trials in 2008, 87 in 2018), Boulder (5 active trials in 2008 to 77 in 2018), Lakewood (3 active trials in 2008 to 77 in 2018), the Rose Medical Center (11 in 2008 to 67 in 2018), Thornton (4 in 2008 to 63 in 2018), the Sky Ridge Medical Center (6 in 2008 to 63 in 2018), Parker (2 in 2008, 61 in 2018), Littleton (5 in 2008, 61 in 2018), and Longmont (3 in 2008, 60 in 2018). Strikingly, the most active of Denver’s alternative clinical trial locations last year that does not belong to Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, the Mountain Blue Cancer Care Center, was the 11th-most active of such sites in actuality. This location grew from one active trial in 2009 to 53 last year1.
Current Active Clinical Trials in Denver-Aurora CSA1,2
Additional analyses of the TrialJourney database reveal some interesting trends with regards to the current state of Denver’s clinical trials landscape. To begin, an estimated 4,326 clinical trials are currently active in the greater Denver area, a decrease of only 50 from its 2018 total1,2. Of these 4,326 trials, about 3,405 (78.7%) of them are currently recruiting for participation1,2. UCHealth is still the most active health system in the Denver CSA for clinical trials with 931 currently ongoing (comprising 21.5% of active trials in the area). This is a notable decrease from its total from last year (1,126)1. Interestingly, however, UCHealth does not have the most recruiting trials in the Denver area despite being the most active system; that honor goes to Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers2.
Additional analyses of the TrialJourney database reveal some interesting trends with regards to the current state of Denver’s clinical trials landscape. To begin, a total of 6,857 clinical trials are currently active in the greater Denver area; of these, 3,256 (47.5%) are currently recruiting for participation. According to these analyses, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers is now the most active health system in the Denver CSA; this network has a current total of 1,378 active clinical trials (653, or 47.4%, of which are recruiting), and these figures comprise 20.1% of both active and recruiting trials in Denver. UCHealth is now the second-most active health system in Denver, with 1,141 currently active clinical trials (661, or 57.9%, of which are recruiting), comprising 16.6% of Denver’s active trials and 20.3% of its recruiting trials. Despite not having the most active trials amongst all health systems in Denver currently, UCHealth does have the most recruiting trials (though, only by eight), and the Anschutz Medical Campus is still the single-most active location in Denver with 539 active trials (332, or 61.6%, of which are recruiting). This campus alone accounts for 47.2% of UCHealth’s active trials and 50.2% of its recruiting trials, as well as 7.9% of active trials and 10.2% of recruiting trials in all of Denver.
Not far behind UCHealth in terms of clinical trial activity is HealthONE, with 1,078 active trials (392, or 36.4%, recruiting) at the moment. This health system currently comprises 15.7% of Denver’s active trials as well as 12% of its recruiting trials. Centura Health has a current total of 767 active clinical trials in Denver, with 290 (37.8%) of them recruiting. This system accounts for about 11.2% of active trials and 8.9% of recruiting trials in the CSA. Finally, Children’s Hospital Colorado has 403 currently active trials (267, or 66.3%, of which are recruiting), respectively accounting for 5.9% and 8.2% of Denver’s active and recruiting trials2. As a whole, these trends indicate that UCHealth is perhaps maturing as a clinical trial provider, paving the way for other health systems to make even bigger stamps on Denver’s landscape.**
Denver appears to have found the formula for long-term success in the clinical trial industry, with a large number of individual locations conducting significant volumes of trials in combination with annual growth leading to the city exceeding expectations given its population. The trends of growth evident in Denver’s landscape bode well for its future, with UCHealth ever-present.
To follow the clinical trial landscape series, visit the TrialJourney Clinical Trials Landscape