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University Of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Receives Federal Grant To Launch Unique Project To Overcome Barriers To Participation In Clinical Trials

PITTSBURGH, July 24, 2003 Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, recently announced that the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) is one of six cancer centers across the United States together awarded $5.6 million for a unique public-private partnership to help overcome barriers to participation in clinical trials for cancer.

The partnership is a groundbreaking collaborative effort among the cancer centers and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and a group of pharmaceutical companies that include Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.

The goal of the collaboration is to design and implement new approaches to increase access to and participation in early-phase clinical trials, or research studies, in community-based settings where patients typically experience the most barriers to enrollment.

It is only through clinical trials that we have been able to make great strides in the detection and treatment of cancer, said Samuel Jacobs, M.D., principal investigator and associate director of clinical investigations at the UPMC Cancer Centers. Unfortunately, however, only a small percentage of patients participate in research studies even though they offer promising new treatments. If we are to stay on the path of finding new cures for cancer, we need to fully address those issues that keep patients from participating in trials.

According to Dr. Jacobs, fear and expense of leaving community settings to travel to larger academic centers where most trials are conducted is a major factor that contributes to patients lack of participation. In addition, poor understanding of the clinical trials process also is a major barrier to participation.

To address these concerns, Dr. Jacobs and his colleagues at UPMC Cancer Centers will use the grant to develop a community model for conducting and enhancing patient participation in early-phase clinical trials. Researchers at the Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh will work closely with community oncologists at various UPMC Cancer Centers throughout the region.

We plan to develop close links between the academic medical center and various community sites and develop outreach programs whose goal will be to increase awareness, understanding and availability of early-phase clinical trials, said Dr. Jacobs.

Our vast network of UPMC Cancer Centers throughout the region puts us at an advantage to achieve the goals of this collaboration and most importantly, it gives patients being seen at community sites access to the latest advances in cancer research, added Ronald Herberman, M.D., co-principal investigator and director of UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers. Through this project, we look forward to creating a national model for clinical trials that can be adapted to communities across the United States.

The UPMC Cancer Centers work in tandem with UPCI to carry out its mission as a premier NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center conducting groundbreaking research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Approximately 25,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients are treated at more than 40 UPMC Cancer Centers across the region each year.

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