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The Rx: Clinical trials restore hope for the future

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Dr. Robert Mannel
Dr. Robert Mannel

Clinical trials are research studies that help physicians and scientists find new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. For patients battling a difficult diagnosis, clinical trials provide access to new drugs and the highest standard of care available anywhere.The National Cancer Institute recently awarded a $10.8 million grant to the Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine. That's extremely good news for Oklahoma. It means the Stephenson Cancer Center will be able to offer even more clinical trials for all types and stages of cancer. In addition, the grant will allow us to recruit new clinical research staff members with expertise in research nursing, study coordination, regulatory affairs and data management.The National Cancer Institute is the nation’s largest sponsor of clinical research, and the Stephenson Cancer Center is among 30 lead sites that make up the National Clinical Trials Network. The network is the largest clinical trials infrastructure in the nation for establishing new standards of cancer care and setting the stage for the approval of new therapies by the Food and Drug Administration.This is the second time the Stephenson Cancer Center has received this particular grant from the National Cancer Institute. The first time it was awarded, in 2014, hundreds of patients were enrolled onto lifesaving clinical trials. We have many success stories from the first round of grant funding. We enrolled numerous patients onto NCI-MATCH, a precision medicine treatment trial in which patients were “matched” with state-of-the-art therapies based on the genetic changes found in their specific tumors. Another groundbreaking trial evaluated immunotherapy combinations for women whose ovarian cancer had been treated but recurred.One year ago, the Stephenson Cancer Center was awarded “NCI Designation” status from the National Cancer Institute, which places Stephenson among the top 2% of cancer centers in the nation, and it culminates more than 15 years of effort to develop a world-class cancer center in Oklahoma.Our entire team of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals is committed to the understanding and treatment of cancer, and we are even more grateful for the renewed faith that clinical trials provide to patients and their families. Patients come to our academic health system from across the state, eager to discuss and participate in clinical trials. They not only want the opportunity to receive a higher level of treatment, but they want to be part of a program that will help countless cancer patients in the future.

Dr. Robert Mannel is director, Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.

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