Brain & Spinal Cord Cancers

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Marge Koe, Radiation Oncology Research Coordinator

Although Marge Koe sees patients on a limited basis, she is integral to the process of patient participation in clinical trials. “I do meet with patients briefly,” Koe says, “to facilitate the signing of the consent forms because they are not intuitive. I also make sure that patients and all care givers are given a copy of the signed and dated consent form, treatment calendar, and current protocol.”

Koe’s job is to ensure that all of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) protocols through the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) have met all of the regulations at the Cancer Consortium Institutional Review Board, and that the correct information is submitted to Budget and Billing so that any tests that are covered by NCI are billed properly. She also works with departments, such as Pathology, to set up a mechanism to request specimens required by protocols.

Once a patient has joined a research study that Koe coordinates, all data from the medical record must be sent to RTOG in the format that RTOG requires in order to analyze data from all participants nationally (this is called data collection and abstraction). All RTOG studies require that patients’ progress is followed for many years after they complete treatment, so that a complete picture of long-term effects (good and bad) can be reported.

In the early 1980s, Koe went to Seattle University for an education in medical records management, and quickly realized that this was “not my cup of tea,” she says. In order to finish her degree, she did a practicum at the Puget Sound Oncology Consortium and found that cancer research was where she fit in. Once she graduated, her first job was with SWOG—the Southwest Oncology Group Statistical Center at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. After six years of coordinating data being sent in from all over the country and working with the statisticians to make certain that data was submitted for analysis correctly, she decided to try data coordination “from the other side,” she says, in position with Virginia Mason where she worked for 14 years submitting data to SWOG and RTOG before joining the Radiation Oncology team at UW Medical Center.

“The National Cancer Institute can be intimidating,” Koe says, “but I know the system and how it works. You have to be extraordinarily detail-oriented.”

Koe enjoys working with the neuro-oncology staff and working with patients with brain and spinal tumors. “There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the neuro-oncology group,” she says.

When she isn’t working, Koe enjoys working in the garden of her yard, cooking, and reading.