July 21, 2016

Cancer clinical trials make care personal

Kaiser Permanente member Frederick Jackson was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 1995. More than 20 years later, and after undergoing treatment at Kaiser Permanente that included participation in a clinical trial, Jackson’s prostate-specific antigen — a key indicator used to monitor prostate cancer remission or progression — is the lowest it has been since the beginning stages of his treatment.

“The experience of being treated at Kaiser Permanente has been very rewarding,” said Jackson in a recent interview. “The care that they give is personal, they’re not just treating a patient as a number.”

Clinical trials at Kaiser Permanente focus on a variety of clinical practices to improve health outcomes, including cancer treatments. Kaiser Permanente clinician investigators bring a real-world clinical practice perspective to their research as they seek to understand the impact of new drugs, biologics, and devices on patient health. These clinician investigators are practicing physicians from diverse sub-specialties and bring their clinical expertise to over 880 active studies.

“One of the advantages of participating in a clinical trial at Kaiser Permanente is that the same practitioner who would be the lead physician in charge of the clinical trial will also likely be the doctor giving you care for your cancer,” said William Towner, MD, FACP, FIDSA, regional physician director for clinical trials, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. “The advantage here is this:  Your doctor is going to know everything about your medical history because of our comprehensive electronic health records.”

Seeking tomorrow’s cure, today

As a member of the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program, Kaiser Permanente received a 5-year, $10.4 million award from the National Cancer Institute to expand its focus on research into cancer care delivery, including:

  • Evaluating alternative treatment delivery systems
  • Examining disease prevention
  • Exploring pain and symptom management
  • Investigating disparities in cancer outcomes and how to eliminate them

The $10.4 million grant will contribute to the clinical trial programs in Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California, Southern California, Northwest, Colorado and Hawaii regions, and will allow Kaiser Permanente cancer care teams to offer a broad menu of clinical trials. Kaiser Permanente is currently the top enroller of patients in NCORP.

“The overall goal of the NCI NCORP is to bring access to cancer clinical trials, as well as cancer care delivery research, to individuals in their own communities to help improve patient outcomes and reduce cancer disparities among various populations,” said Lou Fehrenbacher, MD, medical director, Oncology Clinical Trials, Kaiser Permanente.

In Southern California, Kaiser Permanente conducts formal clinical trials programs in several areas including: oncology, pediatric oncology, infectious disease and hepatology.

Currently, Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s clinical trials oncology program has 95 protocols open to adult patients with cancer. The types of cancers treated in recent studies in Kaiser Permanente Southern California include breast, colorectal, leukemia, lymphoma, lung, and prostate.

Kaiser Permanente oncologists often choose later-phase trials of treatments that have already shown both patient safety and benefit in earlier phases. Although not suitable for all cancer patients, doctors may recommend relevant, proven clinical trials to tackle cancer. Patient participation is always voluntary, thoroughly discussed, and consented to in advance.

Jonathan Polikoff, MD, director, Oncology Research Program, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, recently reflected on the advancements made in oncology research, “I’ve been practicing oncology here at Kaiser Permanente for the last 32 years and I’ve been running the research program for at least the last 20 years. I can confidently say that Kaiser Permanente is a great place to get cancer care.”

To learn more about clinical trials and cancer care at Kaiser Permanente, visit www.kp.org/cancercare.