The Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University has been awarded a six-year $6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to lead a statewide initiative that improves access to innovative clinical trials for a variety of cancers to underserved individuals across Georgia.
As one of 14 NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) Minority/Underserved Community Sites nationally, the Georgia Cancer Center’s Georgia CaRES (Georgia Cancer Research) network will use the money to recruit patients to conduct multi-site cancer clinical trials and cancer care delivery studies in the patients’ communities.
“We are very excited to get this award at a higher level of funding as it allows us to take cutting-edge cancer care across rural Georgia,” said Dr. Sharad Ghamande, associate director for clinical trials at the Georgia Cancer Center. “This will allow us to build on our success in our previous grant (2014-19), where 49% of our patients accrued to clinical trials were minorities.”
While discoveries start in a basic science lab, clinical trials are where the laboratory findings are translated to see how they can improve the treatment of cancer in patients. Clinical trials offer patients not only the standard of care chemotherapy but also the possibility of receiving treatment that could be more beneficial in the future. According to the NCI, the overall goal of NCORP is to bring cancer clinical research studies to individuals in their own communities, thereby generating a broadly applicable evidence base that contributes to improved patient outcomes and a reduction in cancer disparities. Cancer care delivery studies look at the success and cost-efficiency of current cancer care practices.
The 49% enrollment for patients in Georgia is a big increase over the national enrollment percentages. Research shows only 1 out of 20 cancer patients enroll in clinical trials. Of those patients, less than 5 percent are minorities. Because clinical trials are more commonly used to treat children with cancer, survival rates for childhood cancer have increased dramatically in the last few decades.
Ghamande, who serves as the principal investigator for the grant, will work with a team at the Georgia Cancer Center and partner sites across Georgia as well as one site in Mississippi. Partners include the University Cancer and Blood Center (Athens), Augusta Oncology Associates (Augusta), Morehouse School of Medicine (Atlanta), Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (Albany) and St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital (Jackson, Mississippi) which has a minority and rural population similar to what we see in Georgia.
“The awarding of this grant is a recognition of the efforts of Dr. Ghamande and the commitment of the Georgia Cancer Center to improve cancer care in our communities,” said Dr. Jorge Cortes, director of the Georgia Cancer Center. “There has been tremendous progress in our fight against cancer. Unfortunately, many patients do not have access to the most advanced therapies and clinical trials. By extending the participation in clinical trials of underserved and minority populations in Georgia and Mississippi through this grant, we can improve their long-term outlook.”