SWOG Cancer Research Network and its charity, The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research, announce the award of two grants designed to give military veterans better access to cancer clinical trials.

Under the VA Integration Support Program, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers receive a one-time $50,000 grant to help them enroll veterans in trials run by SWOG and other members of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). This means more veterans get targeted treatments, immunotherapies, and other cutting-edge medicines tested in cancer trials. The NCTN offers dozens of trials for a variety of cancers, including lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers – the most common forms in veterans.

Offering clinical trials to cancer patients is considered best practice among oncologists because trials offer access to treatments otherwise unavailable. But offering trials is time-intensive and expensive, requiring hospitals to have adequate staff to work with patients before, during, and after their trial treatment. VA centers use VA Integration Support Program grants to fund clinical research associates and oncology nurses, the support staff who discuss trials with patients, assist with paperwork, submit tissue samples, record treatment and safety data, and perform other tasks necessary to run safe and effective clinical studies.

VA Integration Support Program award winners for 2020 are:

  • Michael J. Crescence VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA
  • VA Boston Medical Health Center, Boston, MA 

SWOG and Hope have given out a total of $649,138 to 20 VA medical centers since 2015, the year the VA Integration Support Program began. The program is part of a larger commitment by SWOG and Hope to help veterans. A SWOG staff member is dedicated, in part, to recruiting VA centers into the SWOG network, and this membership status allows centers to offer patients a spot on any SWOG trial, or any trial conducted by the NCTN. So far, SWOG has recruited 31 VA sites, which have enrolled 474 veterans onto NCI trials since 2015.

This summer, SWOG recruited a patient advocate to provide advice on better ways to engage veterans and get them enrolled onto SWOG trials. The advocate, Bruce Wright of Ladera Ranch, CA, is a survivor of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and prostate cancer and is a retired commander in the U.S. Navy, where he served for more than 20 years. He is a Vietnam War veteran who served three tours of duty, which exposed him to Agent Orange, a known carcinogen. Through work with the CLL Society, a non-profit support, educational resource, and advocacy organization, Wright has mentored 75 veterans with disabilities associated with their time in service, and helped them navigate the Veterans Benefits Administration, which oversees disability assignment, ratings, insurance, and other benefits as well as the Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest integrated health care system.

“Veterans are more likely to get a number of cancers, and with the veteran population aging, the number of veterans getting a cancer diagnosis is likely to rise,” Wright said. “These veterans need to understand that a clinical trial is a good treatment option, and I’m eager to work with SWOG researchers to help raise trial awareness and enrollment.”

Here is a full list of the 20 VA medical centers who’ve received SWOG and Hope grants to date:

  • Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, AR
  • Cincinnati VA Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
  • Dallas VA Medical Center, Dallas, TX
  • Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC
  • George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Salt Lake City, UT
  • James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY
  • Michael J. Crescence VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA
  • Orlando VA Medical Center, Orlando, FL
  • Portland VA Health Care System, Portland, OR
  • Richard J. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN
  • South Texas Veterans Healthcare System, San Antonio, TX
  • VA Boston Medical Health Center, Boston, MA
  • VA Central California Healthcare System, Fresno, CA
  • VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System, Denver, CO
  • VA Loma Linda Healthcare System, Loma Linda, CA
  • VA Medical Center New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
  • VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, Manhattan Campus, New York, NY
  • VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA
  • W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, Salisbury, NC
  • William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, WI

For information on the VA Integration Support Program, contact Morgan Cox at The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research at (734) 998-6887 or morgan@thehopefoundation.org