The University of Kansas Cancer Center and Midwest Cancer Alliance have been awarded a grant to expand the reach of cancer clinical trials to Kansas’ rural communities. The six-year grant designates the team as a minority/underserved (MU) community site of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). There are 14 such sites in the United States., and the KU Cancer Center-Midwest Cancer Alliance site is the only one that focuses on rural communities.
As an NCORP MU community site, KU Cancer Center and Midwest Cancer Alliance will accrue individuals to NCI-approved cancer clinical trials and research studies that encompass cancer prevention, screening, supportive care and symptom management, treatment, quality of life and cancer care delivery.
“This grant is an affirmation and recognition of our scientific leadership and expertise in cancer prevention, survivorship, and cancer-care delivery research,” said Roy Jensen, MD, Director of the KU Cancer Center. “That we are the single site focused on rural communities underscores our vital role in helping our fellow Kansans.”
NCORP is a national network of investigators, cancer care providers, academic institutions and other organizations whose goal is to improve patient outcomes and reduce cancer disparities through clinical trials and research studies. NCORP grants are awarded to top institutions that have demonstrated a strong commitment to the communities they serve.
“As the outreach network of the cancer center, Midwest Cancer Alliance has partnered with hospitals, cancer centers and health care providers across Kansas for more than a decade,” said Hope Krebill, MSW, BSN, RN, executive director of Midwest Cancer Alliance. “This grant enhances our ability to leverage the expertise of our rural cancer providers and KU Cancer Center researchers to expand clinical trials and decrease barriers to participation, with the ultimate goal of eliminating cancer disparities and preventing and treating cancer more effectively,” Krebill said.
“Support from the grant strengthens the institutions’ commitment to advancing clinical trial access and quality of care in rural communities,” said breast oncologist and co-principal investigator Priyanka Sharma, MD. Sharma also noted that patients can now access benefits from several new cancer prevention, survivorship and cancer-care delivery clinical trials.
According to Gary Doolittle, MD, Midwest Cancer Alliance medical director and co-principal investigator for the NCORP grant, bringing clinical trials to a broader patient population may reduce disparities in cancer, given that providing clinical trials to cancer patients is considered a standard of care. Per numerous studies, including a 2017 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, people in rural America are more likely to die from cancer than those in the country’s metropolitan counties.
“While improvements in cancer care have been significant over the last several decades, the need to provide dedicated, comprehensive care continues to grow, particularly in rural areas,” Doolittle said. “We need to ensure that people across the landscape of our area have access to the highest quality cancer care, and this grant enables KU Cancer Center and Midwest Cancer Alliance to help do just that.”
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