The Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University has been awarded a six-year, $6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a program that will improve access to innovative clinical trials in rural and minority communities across the state.
The money will be used to recruit patients for clinical trials and cancer care delivery studies in areas around Albany, Athens, Augusta and Atlanta. Plans call for expanding the program into rural areas of South Georgia as well. Participating patients will receive “standard of care” chemotherapy, and the additional benefit of treatments that could be more beneficial in the future.
Dr. Sharad Ghamande, a gynecologic oncologist who chairs The Medical College of Georgia’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is associate director for clinical trials at the Georgia Cancer Center.
He said they don’t necessarily expect to find a cure through the clinical trials.
“The attempt here is to make it a chronic disease," Ghamande said. "The cancer may never leave, but we can keep it in check where they can co-exist, and they have a decent quality of life.”
Currently, only one in 20 cancer patients enroll in clinical trials. And less than 5% of those who do enroll are minorities.
Ghamande said it is important for there to be diversity among clinical trial participants.
“We presume everyone is going to respond to the medication the same," he said. "But the reality is people are genetically different, whether it is an African American person, or a Spanish-speaking person from South America, someone from Southeast Asia or a Caucasian person."
Cancer patients in rural, minority and other under-served communities can begin signing up for the clinical trials immediately.