The FirstHealth Clinical Trials team: (standing from left) Pam Mason, R.N.; Matt Sherer; Charles S. Kuzma, M.D.; Barry Baber, R.N.; Anne Krembel; and (seated) Tina Thompson; Alice Romans-Hess, Ph.D.; and Julie Williams, Ph.D.
PINEHURST – Several hundred patients are now actively involved or are being followed in studies conducted by the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Clinical Trials program.
The program recently received a Gold Seal Award from the Southeast Clinical Oncology Research Consortium (SCOR) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A group of community oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists and urologists in the Southeastern United States who are committed to bringing cancer clinical trials to their communities, SCOR helps facilitate the connection between affiliate members and patients and the clinical trials they seek. This allows affiliates to administer state-of-the-art cancer treatment to patients in need.
According to Matt Sherer, administrative director of FirstHealth Oncology & Clinical Trials, the Gold Seal Award is based on success in patient accruals, a term related to patient enrollment.
“We receive ‘credits’ in counting our accruals depending upon the study,” Sherer says. “For some studies, one patient enrollment means a 0.2 credit, while one patient in another study may mean a 0.5 or 1.0 credit.”
In the past year, FirstHealth nearly doubled its 22-credit accrual target by achieving 42 credits.
“The national average for adult patient accrual to cancer clinical trials is 3 percent,” says Sherer. “In 2016, we accrued approximately 12 percent of our adult patients on a cancer clinical trial.”
Charles S. Kuzma, M.D., a medical oncologist and hematologist with the FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center, is the lead investigator for the majority of FirstHealth’s cancer clinical trials. He calls the Gold Seal Award “an honor for the FirstHealth organization” and a tribute to the work of the clinical trials coordinators and medical oncology, radiation oncology, pharmacy and lab professionals whose work supports the program.
“We really owe the award and the success of the program to our patients,” he says. “They deserve all the credit.”
According to Dr. Kuzma, FirstHealth Clinical Trials gives cancer patients who live in the Sandhills region access to treatments that are not usually available in a community cancer center.
“It keeps patients from traveling a great distance in some cases, because we have the program right here in our backyard,” he says.
FirstHealth’s Clinical Trials program covers medical oncology, gynecologic oncology and radiation oncology.
For more information on FirstHealth Clinical Trials or other cancer care services offered by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, visit www.nccancercare.org.