As reported by the Stamford Advocate, May 1, 2005.

Cancer Groups Want $1 Million for Clinical Trials

By The Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. -- When Jon Pose learned he had prostate cancer last year, he did some research and read about a medication that might reduce any nerve damage caused by the surgery.

But he had to go to New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center - about 100 miles away - to get the drug, which was being offered by a pharmaceutical company in a clinical trial.

"It certainly would have been nice if something like that would be available in my home state," said Pose, Bristol's 55-year-old fire chief. "That type of treatment should be more readily available to everyone."

Connecticut cancer experts agree. The Connecticut Cancer Partnership - a coalition of hospitals, physicians, public health officials and cancer organizations - is seeking $1 million from the General Assembly to help establish a statewide clinical trials network.

Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Michigan also have initiatives underway to promote participation in national trials or state trials.

"If a certain state can really increase its level of involvement and participation, it may have an impact on how quickly studies can get done," said Dr. Robert L. Comis, president of the Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups in Philadelphia. "But it may also show a way for other states to do it."

The Connecticut partnership hopes to increase participation in trials and promote cancer research at state institutions, including Yale University and the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Organizers also hope that by putting together an organized network of hospitals and oncology clinics, more pharmaceutical companies will be encouraged to bring their clinical trials of new cancer drugs to Connecticut.

"This is something we want to provide to citizens in our state. It benefits the scientists in our state, it benefits the patients in our state," said Jerold Mande, associate director for policy and Yale Cancer Center in New Haven.

Dr. Andrew Salner, chairman of The Connecticut Cancer Partnership and director of the cancer program at Hartford Hospital, said the effort marks a first for the state's hospitals and cancer centers.

"We've never done anything together collectively as a state and come up with some of our own innovations," he said. "We've never done anything that is available and offered to every hospital and oncologist in the state."

Funding from the General Assembly would create the network and hire research nurses and data managers to oversee anywhere from three to 20 clinical trials programs at hospitals and oncology centers across the state.

It's questionable whether they will get the money this given considering it is late in the state budget process.

The partnership is also applying for grant funds from C-Change, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of nation's key cancer leaders from government, business, and nonprofit sectors. The group hopes to encourage states to develop innovative statewide clinical trials networks to boost the number of participants in research trials and ultimately promote cancer research.

Many of today's standard treatments for cancer began in clinical trials, such as lumpectomy for breast cancer and the combination of chemotherapy and radiation for advanced cervical cancer.

"We still haven't made as much progress as we had hoped to have, particularly with adult cancers," said Mande. But he believes researchers are beginning to better understand cancer at the molecular level and he expects clinical trials will soon deliver breakthroughs.

Less than 5 percent of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials for new medications, therapies and treatments. That's compared to about half of child cancer patients.

One reason adults may not participate is the fear of receiving a placebo, or sugar pill. But according to C-Change, placebos are rarely used in cancer clinical studies, and they are never used in place of the best treatment for a given cancer.

Also, the participants in a clinical trial have access to the latest drugs or procedures and are among the first to receive potentially effective new therapies. According to C-Change, studies have shown that trial participants have outcomes that are as good as, if not better than, those who don't participate.

There are an estimated 1,500 cancer clinical trials for new medications and therapies being conducted in the United States. Many are sponsored by the National Cancer Institute or pharmaceutical companies and rely upon patients at cancer centers and hospitals across the nation.

"If more people participate in clinical trials, more effective therapies get into the pipeline quicker," said Gary Gurian, a director at C-Change.