New clinical trials engage community: Banner MD Anderson takes selective approach to research
By Kristine Burnett
Since opening in September 2011, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert has ramped up what will ultimately become a robust research program. Clinical program directors like Judith Wolf, M.D., gynecologic oncologist and division chief of surgery, and Mary Cianfrocca, D.O., director of the breast cancer and clinical cancer genetics programs, identify and initiate trials that align with the cancer care needs of those they serve.
Lee Seabrooke, administrative director of research at Banner MD Anderson, says having autonomy and taking a selective approach to research ensures a program that is tailored to and engages the local community.
“Conducting research at the cancer center means interested patients who meet individual study requirements have access to treatments that are otherwise unavailable,” he says. “Not only does this offer another treatment option, it gives them greater hope.”
The cancer center wrapped up 2013 with nearly 20 trials underway, 10 of which remain open for enrollment. More than 30 trials are in the approval process, with many set to begin this year. Clinical trials at Banner MD Anderson, which are funded by both the pharmaceutical industry and philanthropy, span multiple cancer types, ranging from ovarian and gynecologic cancers, to bladder, blood, skin and pancreatic cancers.
Ovarian Cancer: Testing a new first-line treatment
Under Wolf’s direction, Banner MD Anderson, in the summer of 2013, became one of several sites across the country to take part in a multi-institutional clinical trial from the Gynecologic Oncology Group. The trial will evaluate the efficacy of a new drug as a first-line treatment for women newly diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
This phase 3 randomized trial is an extension of a previous study of the cancer drug Avastin that proved to delay disease progression by an average of about three months. The new trial will evaluate the benefits of taking Avastin in combination with chemotherapy, the current standard treatment for ovarian cancer.
“We hope to enroll between 10 and 12 women who have not yet begun treatment for ovarian cancer to test this approach as a first-line treatment,” explained Wolf. “Women who have undergone surgery but have not yet had chemotherapy or radiation could still be eligible.”
The trial is expected to run for several years and will enroll upwards of 2,000 participants across the country.
“We have more trials planned,” she said. “I encourage physicians and their patients who have been diagnosed with any type of gynecologic cancer to reach out to Banner MD Anderson. It’s always worth a call to see if we have a trial that they may benefit from.”
Evaluating a combination therapy for advanced breast cancer
Banner MD Anderson also is enrolling patients in a breast cancer trial to evaluate a first-line treatment for metastatic breast cancer, that is, cancer that has spread beyond the breasts. The study will test the effectiveness of the drug everolimus in combination with letrozole. Everolimus is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for second-line treatment in combination with aromasin.
As of December 2013, two Banner MD Anderson patients are enrolled in the trial that is part of a larger study sponsored by pharmaceutical company Novartis and operated by researchers at several institutions across the country. Cianfrocca, who serves as the principal investigator for the study at Banner MD Anderson, hopes to enroll upwards of 20 patients over the course of what is expected to be a multi-year research investigation. Participants must not have undergone any prior therapy to treat the metastatic breast cancer.
“Patients in the trial will stay on the combination therapy for as long as they continue benefiting without experiencing unacceptable side effects,” notes Cianfrocca. “We will follow patients for several years after they complete the trial therapy to track and monitor their results.”
Call (480) 256-6444 and speak with a research coordinator to inquire about open trials and eligibility requirements at Banner MD Anderson.