UC Davis Cancer Center wins role in national clinical trials campaign

July 09, 2003

(SACRAMENTO) -- Hoping to speed new cancer treatments to patients, the National Institutes of Health and five major drug makers today announced $6 million in grants to six cancer centers to improve patient participation in early clinical trials, the studies that determine whether a new therapy is safe and effective. UC Davis Cancer Center, the only center in California to receive one of the grants, was awarded funding for a $1.1 million proposal aimed at overcoming barriers to trial participation.

The grants were awarded by the National Institutes of Health through the National Cancer Institute, in partnership with Aventis, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Other grant recipients are Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard University), University of Colorado Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Overall, only 3 percent of cancer patients participate in trials, a rate that has not improved in more than two decades. Low participation rates prolong drug development and delay patient access to potentially effective new agents.

"We hope our study will play a part in accelerating the pace of clinical trials research nationally," said Primo N. Lara, Jr., associate professor of medicine at UC Davis Cancer Center and principal investigator of the barriers study.

Lara's study seeks to combat three major barriers to clinical trial participation: concerns about health coverage; restrictive eligibility criteria; and breakdowns in communication among patients, families and health care providers.

To overcome the first barrier, Lara plans to mount a mass media campaign to raise awareness of SB 37, a 2001 law authored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) that requires private health insurers in California to pay for routine medical costs associated with clinical trials. The study will take place in two cities, Sacramento and San Diego. Collaborators include the Cancer Information Service/Northern California Cancer Center, Association of Northern California Oncologists, Veterans Health Administration of Northern California and the UC Davis Primary Care Network. If successful, the mass media campaign could be used throughout California and in the 13 other states that have laws similar to SB 37.

Derick Lau, associate professor of medicine at UC Davis Cancer Center, will work with Lara to address the second barrier, restrictive eligibility criteria. The cancer specialists plan to evaluate a unique clinical trial model that relaxes certain eligibility criteria and enhances patient access to investigational new agents. Debora Paterniti, assistant professor at the UC Davis Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, will lead the third arm of the study. She and her co-investigators will design and test an intervention intended to prevent communication breakdowns as patients go through cancer treatment.

UC Davis Cancer Center's grant was announced at back-to-back press conferences in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Tommy Thompson, U.S. secretary of health and human services, Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Andrew von Eschenbach, director of the National Cancer Institute, made the announcement in the capital.

The public-private campaign to increase enrollment in clinical trials is an effort of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, in collaboration with the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Friends of Cancer Research, a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that mobilizes public support for cancer research funding. More information about these organizations may be found on their Web sites: http://www.aaci.org; http://www.fnih.org; and http://www.focr.org.

University of California - Davis Health System

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