September 09, 2020
The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s status as a community site of the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) has been renewed following a successful first year. The cancer center team exceeded clinical trial accrual goals by more than 22%. This sustained funding provides Kansans more opportunities to participate in leading-edge clinical trials and cancer care delivery studies in their communities.
Of the 14 NCORP designated minority/underserved community sites, the cancer center team is the only one concentrating its efforts on rural communities. About 80% of the counties in the cancer center’s catchment area are rural or frontier counties. The program connects community hospitals with the infrastructure required to offer clinical trials.
“As the only rural NCORP site, we have the opportunity to help guide research that supports the unique needs of individuals with cancer who live in rural communities,” said Gary Doolittle, MD, Masonic Cancer Alliance (MCA) medical director and co-principal investigator for the NCORP grant.
Bringing more NCI-sponsored clinical trials to the region not only provides patients with more treatment options, it also leads to discoveries about the way cancer works. Kelsey Larson, MD, breast surgical oncologist, is the site principal investigator (PI) for two of the NCORP studies, which means she leads the studies at the cancer center. Her responsibilities include reviewing patients who are enrolled and ensuring the trial is being performed safely and appropriately.
“The trials for which I am site PI are very exciting. Our primary goal is to see if taking aspirin daily lowers the risk of breast cancer recurrence,” Dr. Larson said. “One of the great things about our cancer center is that we collaborate to ensure all options are available to each patient – so my patients have the opportunity to participate in all of the breast cancer NCORP studies led by myself or any of my multidisciplinary partners.”
In addition to the cancer center located in Kansas City, the team comprises four community sites and six MCA sites across the state. Jeff Geitz, MD, medical oncologist at the Tammy Walker Medical Center in Salina, Kan., was the top accruer of all MCA sites.
“The grant has been especially helpful in places like Salina because it gives us access to trials we would not have otherwise. It isn't realistically feasible for our patients to drive three hours every few weeks for treatment. Being able to deliver these treatments close to home is a real blessing for our patients,” Dr. Geitz said.
Dr. Doolittle added that patients must balance travel, farm schedules and access to high-speed internet with a cancer diagnosis.
“Rural communities are innovative, with their pioneering spirit, even with the global pandemic, providers continue to move research forward, not even missing a beat,” Dr. Doolittle said.
The grant is renewable for up to six years. NCORP grant team members will continue to build on collaborations and infrastructure to address the needs of Kansas’ underserved populations.“In year two of the NCORP grant, we will continue to enhance our efforts towards making all types of clinical trials - treatment, prevention, survivorship and cancer care delivery - more easily accessible to Kansans affected by cancer," said Priyanka Sharma, MD, breast medical oncologist and co-principal investigator.