Clinical Study Volunteers Integral in Mission to Detect Cancer Earlier
As an infectious disease clinical nurse specialist at The Christ Hospital Health Network, Jan Stockton knows the impact clinical trials make in the advancement of medicine.
So, when the Cancer Center at The Christ Hospital was the only center in the Tri-State region chosen to contribute to the national Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study that could lead to earlier detection of cancer and make treatments easier and save more lives, Stockton immediately volunteered as a participant. The fact that cancer has been diagnosed in several family members, including her younger sister who developed a malignant brain tumor, also inspired Stockton to get involved.
“Clinical trials are the only means of getting answers, the only way to figure things out, whether it is prevention or treatment,” says the former oncology nurse.
The Christ Hospital Health Network, in partnership with GRAIL, a life sciences company devoted to early detection of cancer and funded by investors that include Bill Gates and GV (formerly Google Ventures), offers access to the CCGA observational trial and hopes to enroll 700 of the 7,000 cancer patients and 300 of the 3,000 individuals without cancer needed for the study. This effort is managed by the Lindner Research Center at The Christ Hospital.
Early cancer diagnosis results in significantly higher survival rates compared to late-stage diagnosis, but effective screening currently exists for only a few cancer types. Hence, most cancers are diagnosed when survival rates are much lower. Extensive research suggests that cancer might be directly detectable with DNA shed by tumors into the bloodstream.
Circulating tumor nucleic acids in the blood are emerging biomarkers for earlier cancer detection, and the CCGA study trial will provide a foundation for the development of blood tests as early cancer detectors. The trial also provides people with and without cancer to participate in an impactful cancer-fighting initiative.
“The goal of this study is to eventually have tools to detect cancer early, before symptoms appear,” says Philip Leming, MD, principal investigator for the project and medical oncologist at The Christ Hospital Health Network. “To do this, we need a vast amount of tumor genomic data from individuals with and without cancer. This is a great opportunity for local Cincinnatians to make a difference in the fight against cancer.”
The Cancer Center at The Christ Hospital, he notes, offers precision medicine – cancer care tailored to each individual and their condition. Physicians specialize in treating specific types of cancer, and groundbreaking technology offers highly targeted therapy without surgery. Genetic testing is also available, identifying the most effective treatment for cancer patients.
“It’s exciting to extend our footprint in genomic medicine with participation in CCGA, and we are very honored to be the only center chosen in our region and one of a select number of centers nationally,” Dr. Leming says.
As a healthy participant in the CCGA study, Stockton filled out a questionnaire, gave a blood sample and agreed to allow access to her health records for the next five years. In addition to blood samples, volunteers with cancer allow collection of their tumor tissue.
“I don’t have it now, but if I am diagnosed with cancer later on, they can see if there is a biological change that occurred within me that caused me to be at a higher risk for developing a malignancy,” Stockton says. “The only way we can gain that wisdom, that kind of knowledge, is if people partner with us and are willing to invest their time to help us in the fight against cancer.”
The Christ Hospital Network main campus is located at 2139 Auburn Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219. Volunteers for the CCGA study are still needed. For more information, call 513.585.1777 or email Lindner@thechristhospital.com.