09/17/2009

Statewide effort unites cancer doctors, hospitals and patients

Clinical trials network offers latest treatments

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has partnered to establish a Clinical Trials Network with Wheeling Hospital; United Hospital Center, Clarksburg; Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC), Charleston; and City Hospital, Martinsburg.

The newly established statewide network enables doctors around the state to enroll patients in clinical trials taking place throughout the network – trials in which promising experimental cancer therapies are offered to patients who qualify.

“This is the just the beginning of a collaboration that promises to serve cancer patients throughout West Virginia, and our plan is to expand the network by including all willing oncologists and institutions in the state,” said Jame Abraham, M.D., chief of Hematology/Oncology at WVU and medical director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. “We’ll be working with each institution, respecting its strengths and identity, in cancer care.”

Many institutions and private doctor's offices offer clinical trials, including the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU, Marshall’s Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center, United Hospital Center in Clarksburg, CAMC’s David Lee Cancer Center, WVU
Hospitals-East in Martinsburg and Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center

Clinical trials are research studies created to determine which new drugs or devices may provide better outcomes for patients. In some cases, a clinical trial can provide the most promising treatment. West Virginia has a particularly low rate of participation in clinical
trials compared with the rest of the nation. Through this network, doctors throughout the state will be able to match cancer patients with these new treatments.

Treatment options for many cancers are still very limited, Abraham said. “The only way we can make progress in cancer treatment is by doing clinical trials.”

The network’s goal is to allow West Virginia's oncologists to form partnerships with cancer researchers and, if needed, to partner with larger institutions to bring advanced clinical trials to their communities. With the network in place, patients can gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and they can enroll without leaving their home communities or their primary doctors or oncologists.

“We have spent more than a year working with oncologists, hospitals and other healthcare providers to create this collaborative network,” said Scot C. Remick, M.D., director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. “This was a major goal for all of us – to offer cancer patients in West Virginia access to clinical trials no matter where they live. We believe that collaborative practices lead to better cancer care.”

Under the network, oncologists throughout the state can work with the institutions’ doctors and researchers, and those who enroll their patients in clinical trials will receive newer anticancer drugs directly from those institutions. (Martinsburg’s City Hospital, part of WVUH-East, is already able to do that for cancer patients in the Eastern Panhandle.)

The network is expected to allow cancer centers and oncologists to attract new clinical trials to West Virginia by offering a larger population for such studies.

Examples of clinical trials at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center involve treating aggressive forms of breast cancer with new combinations of drugs. New “targeted” therapies aim to obliterate the cancer cells without harming the body’s other cells.

The network is expected to expand during the next year. Collaborations with institutions in the southern part of the state may involve healthcare organizations and oncologists in Bluefield, Princeton and Beckley.

The network was made possible in part through creation of the West Virginia Oncology Society, organized in 2008 and recently accepted as a full member by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and has received grant funding through the Susan G Komen for the Cure and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.The group has already attracted more than 85 percent of the state’s cancer specialists. They elected John Azar, M.D., of Fairmont their first president and James Frame, M.D., from CAMC as vice president.

The West Virginia group will meet October 8 in Morgantown.

For information on the Cancer Center at WVU see
http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.

For information on clinical trials at the Cancer Center see
http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/ctru/.


For a glossary of clinical trial terms see
http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/info/glossary.


For comparisons of cancer rates in West Virginia by county see
http://statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/.


 

-WVU-


09-250
For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
brunaisa@wvuh.com
ab: 8-9-09

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