Program to Match Patients to Drug Trials Holding Greatest Potential for their Cancer
AUSTIN, TEXAS – It’s no secret that Texas is a big state, but it can become an issue for cancer patients in places such as Amarillo or El Paso who aren’t able to make the long drive to Houston or Dallas to participate in clinical trials. Through the Statewide Clinical Trials Network of Texas (CTNeT), more and more Texans battling cancer will be able to access the latest treatments while staying close to their personal comfort and support systems at home.
The new network was discussed Tuesday (Nov.15) as part of this week’s annual Innovations in Cancer Prevention and Research Conference being held at theAustinConvention Center. CTNeT is a $25 million program funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the conference host. Working with Baylor College of Medicine’s Cancer Genetics Lab andHumanGenomeSequencingCenterto profile a candidate patient’s individual cancer, CTNeT will use that information to match patients to the appropriate clinical trials based on the specific characteristics of their cancer instead of solely on the type of cancer they have – breast, lung, cervical, prostate, etc.
Dr. Charles Geyer, Jr., CTNeT’s chief medical officer, said the program could change how clinical trials are conducted by making it affordable for pharmaceutical companies to test drugs that affect a smaller number of patients that share narrowly defined cancer characteristics. The resulting drug would likely be more effective than previous treatments and produce fewer negative side effects.
“In characterizing each individual’s cancer, we want to try to understand the dynamics of their tumors so that we can identify drugs that might be most effective against their specific cancer,” Geyer said. “Taking new cancer drugs to market is expensive because of the clinical trial expense. We want to help speed the effort by finding the right patients for the right drug trial.”
Currently, only 3 to 5 percent of patients participate in clinical trials. Geyer said that number is so low because patients are not often asked to participate because doctors either don’t know what trials are available or don’t have the systems in place to support patients participating on the trials. CTNeT will alleviate those issues by helping doctors and patients know where to turn for help or information on current clinical trials for the latest cancer drugs.
No other state has a program like CTNeT, so other cancer patients from across theUnited Statesmay soon start coming toTexasto participate in clinical trials, Geyer said. The program also will helpTexasphysicians by providing access to a program that can make a real difference in cancer treatment.
While CTNeT is still in its infancy, it will launch in the first half of 2012 with its first few clinical trials and start initially with the state’s larger cities before gradually moving into smaller, regional cancer centers throughout the state.
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Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation and commercialization in the area of cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state. CPRIT accepts applications and awards grants for a wide variety of cancer-related research and for the delivery of cancer prevention programs and services by public and private entities located in Texas. More information about CPRIT is available on its website, www.cprit.state.tx.us.