TrialScout

Seattle, WA

No Clear Winner in Seattle for Clinical Trials

Written by Jack Beecher, TrialScout Data Analyst

“The Clinical Trials Landscape is a project that the proprietary database transformation underlying www.TrialScout.com has given life to,” said Dr. Irfan Khan, CEO of Circuit Clinical. “Our goal with this project is to provide new insights to patients, providers, and healthcare administrators across the country that will help them understand and choose clinical research as a care option.” The landscape of Seattle’s contribution to the clinical trial industry primarily paints a picture of healthy competition between several evenly matched health systems.

Ranked as the 14th-largest Designated Market Area (DMA) in the U.S. by Nielsen in 20173, the Seattle Combined Statistical Area (CSA) ranks 11th in the country in clinical trial volume since the beginning of their recording, according to the TrialScout database1. There have been 16,534 clinical trials conducted in the greater Seattle area (which extends southward to Centralia and northward to Mt. Vernon, including other cities such as Tacoma, Olympia, Everett, and Bellevue among others); this places it ahead of several higher-ranked DMAs in this department, such as Dallas (ranked 5th by Nielsen, and having 14,309 trials), Atlanta (ranked 10th by Nielsen, and 14,477 trials), Tampa (ranked 11th by Nielsen, and 9,636 trials) and Phoenix (ranked 12th by Nielsen, 9,775 trials). Seattle also outpaces Minneapolis, the DMA ranked immediately below it, in trial volume; compared to Seattle’s 16,534, there have been 15,094 clinical trials conducted in the Minneapolis area. On the other hand, Seattle is outperformed by the DMA immediately ahead of it, the Detroit CSA, which has conducted 20,877 trials1,3.

Distribution of Clinical Trials per Zip Code1

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It is worth noting, however, that the Detroit CSA has a greater population than the Seattle CSA; Detroit’s is 5,336,286 whereas Seattle’s is 4,764,7365. Evaluating the other aforementioned comparables on population yields somewhat mixed results. Seattle has greater trial volumes despite a significantly smaller population than Dallas and Atlanta (which have 7,847,110 and 6,551,336 residents, respectively)1,5. Further, Seattle significantly outpaces Phoenix in trial volume despite nearly identical populations (Phoenix’s is 4,737,270) and understandably outpaces Tampa due to having a significantly higher population (Tampa’s is 3,091,399)1,4. However, Seattle outpaces Minneapolis despite having a greater population (Minneapolis’ population is 3,946,533)1,5.

The closest comparables to the greater Seattle area in terms of trial volume are the Houston and Denver CSAs; Houston has about 900 more trials than Seattle (17,431) whereas Denver has about 1,200 fewer (15,386)1. These comparisons also yield a mixed bag for Seattle; while Houston slightly outpaces Seattle in trial volume and has a population roughly 900,000 greater than Seattle’s (5,641,077), Denver has about 1.2 million fewer residents than Seattle and trails it by a wider margin1,5.

Clinical Trials in Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia CSA (2018)1

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10 Years of the Top 5 Clinical Trial Hospitals in Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia CSA (2018)1

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In a similar fashion to Minneapolis, Seattle’s clinical trials landscape is distributed relatively evenly across multiple health systems. In total, there were 4,608 active* trials across the Seattle CSA in 2018. The health system with the most active trials in Seattle last year is UW Medicine, with 686 active trials, accounting for 14.9% of active trials in the CSA. Not far behind is Swedish Health Services, with 614 active trials last year (13.3% of Seattle’s total). The top five is rounded out by CHI Franciscan Health (506 active trials, 11% of all in Seattle), the MultiCare Health System (372 active trials in 2018, 8.1% of Seattle’s total), and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research and Foundation (328 active trials in 2018, 7.1% of Seattle’s total). Five additional health systems in Seattle also eclipsed an active trial total of 100 last year; these systems are the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (307 active trials in 2018), the Virginia Mason Health System (268 active trials), the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (251 active trials), Providence Health and Services (248 active trials), and Northwest Medical Specialties (110 active trials)1.

The most active individual location in Seattle in 2018 was the University of Washington Health Sciences Center, with 366 active trials; this campus alone accounted for 7.9% of active clinical trials in Seattle. In line with the trend seen for the health systems, the next most active locations are not far behind. The second-most active location in Seattle in 2018 was the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, with 301 active trials. The third-most active location is right on the second-most’s heels; Seattle Children’s Hospital had 300 active clinical trials in 2018. The rest of Seattle’s top five includes the Swedish First Hill Campus (242 active trials) and Harborview Medical Center (210 active trials). Interestingly, although there is a total of ten health systems in Seattle that had at least 100 active trials last year, the same can only be said for nine individual locations. The remaining locations with this honor are the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at South Lake Union (203 active trials), the Virginia Mason Hospital and Seattle Medical Center (156 active trials), the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle (117 active trials), and Northwest Medical Specialties’ Tacoma location for Medical Oncology and Infectious Diseases (107 active trials)1. This trend reflects the notion that Seattle’s clinical trial landscape is not only distributed across several health systems, but also distributed across multiple locations within these systems. According to the TrialScout database, 36 locations across the Seattle CSA had at least 40 active trials last year1.

Seattle as a whole has seen notable growth in trial volume over the past decade, in line with most of the metropolitan areas documented in this series. Seattle has grown from 2,785 active clinical trials in 2008 to its 2018 total of 4,608. Most notably, Seattle Children’s Hospital has more than doubled over this span, from totals of 146 active trials in 2008 to 300 last year. In addition, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at South Lake Union has just about quadrupled, from 50 active trials in 2008 to 203 in 2018. The Virginia Mason Hospital and Seattle Medical Center has also more than doubled, from 70 active trials in 2008 to 156 last year. Other notable instances of growth amongst individual clinical trial locations in Seattle include usual suspects such as the University of Washington Health Sciences Center (274 active trials in 2008, 366 in 2018), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (204 active trials in 2008 to 301 in 2018), and Swedish First Hill Campus (141 active trials in 2008 to 242 in 2018). However, some of the more significant cases of trial growth in Seattle can be found at locations that aren’t at the very top; for instance, the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership in Everett has grown from seven active trials in 2008 to 72 in 2018, MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital has gone from 22 active trials in 2008 to 70 in 2018, and the Swedish Cherry Hill Campus has grown from eight active trials in 2008 to 65 last year among others. These figures only appear to scratch the surface; from 2008 to 2018, an additional fourteen locations in the greater Seattle area have seen growth of at least 40 active trials1.

Alternative Clinical Centers in Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia CSA (2018)1

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Outside of large health systems, Seattle’s alternative clinical trial sites also comprise a significant portion of its landscape. The most active of these sites in the area last year, by far, was the aforementioned Northwest Medical Specialties location. This site has also seen very significant growth in trial output over the past decade, growing from sixteen active trials in 2018 to 107 last year. The next most active of these sites is the Northwest Clinical Research Center, which had 51 active trials last year (growing from a 2008 total of 19), with the top five in the region rounded out by the Tacoma Valley Radiation Oncology Center at the St. Joseph Medical Pavilion (45 active trials last year, growing from one in 2011), Pacific Gynecology Specialists Seattle at the Madison Tower (40 active trials in 2018, growing from a total of two in 2009), and the Rainier Clinical Research Center (24 active trials in 2018, doubling from 12 in 2008)1.

Current Active Clinical Trials in Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia CSA2

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More recent analyses of the TrialScout database have shed light on some interesting developments in the current clinical trials landscape of the greater Seattle area. According to these analyses, there are currently 7,151 active clinical trials in the Seattle CSA; of these trials, 3,326 (46.5%) are currently recruiting for participation. The first of these notable developments is that CHI Franciscan Health is now most active health system in the CSA, with 1,014 currently active trials (399, or 39.3%, of which are recruiting). This system accounts for 14.2% of Seattle’s active trials and 12% of Seattle’s recruiting trials. In addition, Swedish Health Services is currently the second-most active health system in the Seattle CSA, with 1000 active trials (466, or 46.6% recruiting); its current figures comprise 14% of both active and recruiting clinical trials in the area.

Despite this shift, however, the University of Washington Health Sciences Center is still the most active individual location in Seattle with 430 active trials (235, or 54.7%, recruiting); this location alone accounts for 6% and 7.1% of Seattle’s currently active and recruiting trials. UW Medicine as a whole has 778 currently active trials (420, or 54%, of which are recruiting), comprising 10.9% of Seattle’s recruiting trials and 12.6% of its recruiting trials. MultiCare Health currently has 610 active trials, with 224 (36.7%) recruiting, conducting 8.5% of active trials and 6.7% of its recruiting trials. Lastly, Seattle Children’s Hospital currently has 353 active trials (235, or 66.6% recruiting), accounting for 4.9% of active clinical trials in Seattle and 7.1% of its recruiting trials. Also of note are the current contributions of Providence Health (533 active trials, 234 recruiting), Fred Hutchinson (411 active trials, 181 recruiting), and the Virginia Mason Health System (391 active trials, 201 recruiting)2.**

Seattle is performing relatively well in the clinical trial industry, but comparisons to similar cities yield mixed evidence. Still, Seattle’s contribution to the clinical trials landscape of the U.S. can be characterized by parity, depth, and steady growth, and the current trends evident within its own landscape bode well for its future.

To follow the clinical trial landscape series, visit the TrialScout Clinical Trials Landscape



*Active in 2018 = Active at any point in 2018 (Start date of study is before 12/31/2018 and end date is after 1/1/2018)

**As part of our ongoing quality assurance process, we've enhanced and improved our trial accounting algorithm in order to capture clinical trials with inconclusive and/or unstated completion dates.

  1. Approximate attributable data as per the TrialScout database collapse as of 4/11/2019. All data is derived from https://clinicaltrials.gov/
  2. Approximate attributable data as per the TrialScout database collapse as of 7/22/2019. All data is derived from https://clinicaltrials.gov/
  3. Lyons Public Relations Broadcast PR Solutions. (2017). 2017 Nielsen DMA rankings – Full list. Retrieved from https://www.lyonspr.com/latest-nielsen-dma-rankings/
  4. U.S. Census Bureau. (2018) New Census Bureau population estimates show Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington has the largest growth in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/popest-metro-county.html
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. (2019). Annual estimates of the resident population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018 – United States – Combined statistical area; and for Puerto Rico. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk

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