Prisma Health is on a mission to increase access to innovative cancer care and better outcomes, after receiving an $8.2-million grant from the National Institutes of Health designed to educate and expand access to Upstate and Midlands patients.
“One of the most important goals is education,” said Dr. Ki Young Chung, principle investigator of the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) of the Carolinas at Prisma Health. “We want patients to know that clinical trials are incredibly important to furthering cancer research and their own cancer care delivery and outcomes. We’ve been able to offer immunotherapy to those who otherwise wouldn’t have had access, for example. Anyone can participate in clinical trials, and there are a spectrum of trials available to patients at any given moment.”
Many patients believe clinical trials are only for certain people or that they have to forego more “proven” treatments to participate, but, in most cases, this isn’t true.
“There are many types of clinical trials, from finding superior ways to deliver cancer care to trying to understand the financial burdens of patients,” Dr. Chung emphasized. “This year, the rate of cancer death decreased, and this is due to clinical trials, so it’s in the patients’ best interest to reach out to their physician to see if there are any trials they would like to participate in.”
With education being such a critical aspect of Prisma Health’s mission to expand clinical trials, Prisma is augmenting its outreach programs, giving lectures, visiting health care facilities and speaking to providers and patients one-on-one about the incredible opportunities they have to not only improve their cancer care outcomes but to get more accurate diagnoses and enjoy a better quality of life while receiving care.
“One example of a clinical trial is a ‘longitudinal assessment of financial burden’ in patients with colon and rectal cancer treated with curative intent – which means we do a study for two years on how we can improve access and quality of care to people who may not have insurance or have other financial burdens that impact their ability to receive care.”
This is but one example of the many types of clinical trials offered, all designed to open the doors for a better quality of life and care for people of the Upstate and Midlands. Once a clinical trial has been determined to offer a superior clinical benefit, it becomes the standard.
Many of the clinical trials address systemic challenges, as well as the problems health care providers face that may not directly affect care. Financial challenges, travel, family dynamics – you name it – Prisma is interested in understanding its influence on patients. This grant is an opportunity to study as many components of cancer care as possible, with new clinical trials being introduced at a frequent rate.
“One of the things many people don’t realize is there are thousands of types of cancers. If you add them all up, there are more rare tumors than there are common cancers, and the only way we can learn to treat those are through clinical trials,” said Dr. Chung. “So we continue to educate and invite patients to speak to their physicians or visit our website at PrismaHealth.org to see how they can participate in these clinical trials.”
Although science has made great strides in delivering cancer care, many challenges must still be overcome. There are more than 300 active cancer clinical trials at any given time, and, with this grant, that number will increase along with the efficacy of the trials themselves.
Clinical trials are the foundation of many of the groundbreaking treatments successfully used today, and, with the $8.2 million grant, Dr. Chung hopes to continue the push toward more access, better cancer-care delivery and better outcomes.
By James Crawford