Veterans Get Better Access to NCI Trials
For the third year, SWOG, the global cancer clinical trials network, and its charity, The Hope Foundation, are giving military veterans better access to cancer clinical trials through direct grant support to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
Under the VA Integration Support Program, medical centers receive $25,000 to help them enroll veterans in trials run by SWOG and other members of the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). This means more veterans get targeted treatments, immunotherapies, and other cutting-edge medicines tested in clinical trials. The NCTN offers dozens of trials for a variety of cancers, including lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers – the most common forms in veterans.
"As a former VA physician, I know centers are strapped for money and time, so it’s difficult for them to offer cancer trials," said Dr. Charles D. Blanke, SWOG group chair. "Three years into our program, we’re starting to make a real difference for our military veterans."
VA Integration Support Program award winners for 2017 are:
- South Texas Veterans Healthcare System, San Antonio, TX
- VA Central California Health Care System, Fresno, CA
- VA Medical Center New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
- W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, Salisbury, NC
This brings to 14 the number of VA centers that have received $25,000 from SWOG and The Hope Foundation. Centers use the grants to pay for support staff critical for running a cancer trial. Clinical research associates and oncology nurses discuss trials with patients, assist with paperwork, submit tissue samples, record important treatment and safety data, and perform other tasks necessary to run safe and effective clinical studies.
In 2015 and 2016, SWOG and The Hope Foundation funded these VA centers:
- Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, AR
- Cincinnati VA Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
- Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC
- James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY
- Orlando VA Medical Center, Orlando, FL
- Portland VA Health Care System, Portland, OR
- Richard J. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN
- VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, Denver, CO
- VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, Manhattan Campus, New York, NY
- VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA
Since the program began, 95 patients at VA medical centers in the U.S. have enrolled in SWOG or SWOG-credited clinical trials. That’s a 300 percent increase prior to the program launch.
Along with the infrastructure grants, this enrollment increase is due in part to a SWOG partnership formed with the VA New England Clinical Trial Network and the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center, or MAVERIC, a Boston-based VA organization that advances research and clinical care and is supported by the VA Office of Research and Development. In 2015, MAVERIC joined SWOG as a member. This means that patients in MAVERIC’s 10 VA medical centers can enroll in trials run by SWOG or any NCTN group.
Giving veterans better access to clinical trials is a priority of the National Cancer Institute and the VA’s Office of Research and Development. This month, the NCI and VA launched a new program that will also provide infrastructure grants to VA medical centers that want to increase participation in NCI trials. The program, the NCI and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trails Enrollment (NAVIGATE), is aimed at creating a sustainable national network of sites that offer veterans new cancer treatment options through clinical trials.
For information on the VA Integration Support Program, contact Morgan Cox at The Hope Foundation at (734) 998-6887 or zbetna/ng/gurubcrsbhaqngvba/qbg/bet.