CAMC Health Education and Research Institute has been a leader and significant provider of cancer clinical trials for more than 30 years. West Virginia has the fourth highest cancer-related mortality in the nation, and some cancers occur at a disproportionately higher rate among our residents.
"Serving West Virginia's largest population of cancer patients, CAMC has provided patient access for children and adults, to leading clinical trials from NCI-sponsored, Children's Oncology Group or industry-sponsored cancer clinical trials," said Jim Frame, MD, FACP, medical director, hematologist/ oncologist at the David Lee Cancer Center on CAMC Memorial Hospital campus. "Through these efforts, patients have participated in pivotal cancer prevention trials in lung, breast and prostate cancer, as well as high priority cancer treatment clinical trials in breast, colorectal, lung and childhood cancer, among many others."
Steven Jubelirer, MD, hematologist/ oncologist at the David Lee Cancer Center arrived in Charleston in 1980.
"One of the biggest things that has helped research here at CAMC is the formation of the CAMC Health Education and Research Institute (CHERI)," Jubelirer said. "That created a mechanism for doing clinical trials. In the last 10 years, outcomes research has made our research quite sophisticated, which is a dramatic change from 30 years ago."
The CAMC Institute assists investigators who wish to pursue research projects based on their own ideas or hypothesis.
"A project I am currently working on with the CAMC Vascular Center of Excellence illustrates the resources available to investigators," said Arun Nagarajan, MD, assistant professor of medicine, David Lee Cancer Center. "I have ongoing technical support from the CAMC Institute. There is a whole research team available to help patients and physicians alike. They are an integral part of the cancer care at CAMC."
Patient participation in cancer research takes an institution from current standards of care to tomorrow's innovations in cancer care.
"Research is basically critical, rather than essential," said Roberto Kusminsky, MD. "If a facility is to evolve into high-class, high-quality facility, it has to have it. The kind of research we are doing is something we are not only the originators of, but others have not produced. We bring innovations to the world, and we can compete with large facilities across the country because of that."
Cancer research studies are done based on the population a health care facility serves. They exist to ensure that treatments are always evolving to meet the needs of the community. According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), one of the nation's leading developers of cancer treatment guidelines, the best management of any cancer patient is in a clinical research trial.
"The only way that treatments can be improved is if the diseases they are meant to help and the therapies that are possible are studied," said Howard Grodman, MD, associate professor in pediatric hematology/ oncology for West Virginia University Charleston Division. "How do diseases begin, how do they progress, how are they currently being treated and how well does that treatment work? If the current therapies are not as good as we would like them to be, then we must find out why they are not. That means research: asking pertinent questions, documenting the answers and posing solutions."
CAMC follows NCCN treatment guidelines to ensure that patients receive the best treatment options for their specific disease. Many patients are enrolled in national clinical trials, also called cooperative group trials.
"These co-ops keep us abreast of all upcoming therapies," Jubelirer said. "They also provide opportunities for patients who desire clinical trials and new treatments. We always offer options." "The majority of the patients enrolled to national clinical trials are from communities like ours," added Nagarajan. "We not only provide cutting-edge cancer care to our patients, but also offer them emerging treatments through clinical trials. To me that is what makes CAMC a state-of-the-art cancer center." Today, clinical investigators at the David Lee Cancer Center and collaborating physicians provide access to more than 60 cancer clinical trials currently open for patient participation.
"The majority of these clinical trials are at the most mature stage of clinical development, known as Phase III clinical trials, where the current standard of care for a particular stage and type of cancer is compared to an innovative treatment approach identified through prior clinical trials," Frame said. "These clinical trials address a number of innovative and practical clinical questions for a number of cancers including bladder, breast, colon, esophageal, head and neck, leukemia, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, myeloma and prostate."
Physicians dealing with cancer in children in our area also are able to utilize national trials to enhance treatment opportunities for that patient population.
"Our goal at the CAMC Children's Cancer Center is to have most of our kids treated on national research protocols," Grodman said. "Not only does this help us get to our goal of curing all children with cancer, but it also provides a measure of confidence to our families to know that when their child comes into the CAMC Children's Cancer Center that child will receive the same therapy that they would at any major pediatric oncology center in the U.S."
The CAMC Institute continues to expand its cancer research program in order to provide the most up-to-date and innovative treatment opportunities to its patients. As one of the top cancer centers in the state of West Virginia, it is our priority to be part of that research movement. Our enrollment statistics exceed the national standards for commendation by the American College of Surgeons. This research allows CAMC to remain at the forefront of cancer care, and continue to care for the many patients diagnosed daily with different types of cancer in the communities we serve.
For more information about cancer research, call the CAMC Health Education and Research Institute at (304) 388-9913.