The National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) recently awarded a $5.1 million grant, the largest in history in the State of Maine, to MaineHealth so that residents across Maine and Carroll County, New Hampshire, will have access to advanced clinical trials in their home communities.

The funds were awarded to the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network (MHCCN). The funds establish the MaineHealth Cancer Care Lifespan Program as part of a concerted effort to connect Maine’s population with the latest research in cancer prevention, cancer treatment, and cancer care delivery to underserved populations.

Problems in Maine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Maine’s population experiences the eighth highest overall cancer mortality rate in America. The state has the third highest rate of pediatric cancer, reported MaineHealth. These numbers are disturbing and necessitate support.

Cancer Research as a Care Option

The Penobscot Bay Pilot reports that the MHCCN Lifespan Program will be unique in this northern part of New England, offering patients in the region access to advanced NCI clinical trials at each stage of the cancer continuum—from prevention to survivorship as well as children to adults. A range of clinical trials and programs will be offered and the hope is that patients will have a more tailored care option, whether such care is offered as part of a clinical trial or care coordination option, to reduce the incidence, risk and mortality rates associated with cancer.

Accessibility to Clinical Research Raises Health Levels

Studies reveal that cancer patients in more rural and remote areas had similar outcomes to those in urban areas (with greater accessibility) when they both have uniform access to a clinical trial. Now that MaineHealth has received NCORP financing and membership, their network of clinical trials and other targeted research activities will be tailored to specific health conditions present in Maine’s communities—local hospitals and health care practices take on attributes of advanced medical research centers such as the type one would find in Boston or New York City.

Scott Remick, MD, Maine Medical Center Chief of Oncology and one of three principal investigators of the Lifespan Program, reports, “Patients often feel that in order to get state-of-the-art care and to enroll in clinical trials, they need to travel to a major metropolitan area.” He continued, “We believe patients should have access to advanced care close to home—wherever they live. This grant is a transformational award that will bring a wide variety of clinical trials to our community.”

Current Access and Expanded Access

Patients have had access to clinical trials though MHCCN at Maine Medical Center, Maine General Hospital, Southern Maine Health Care, Stephens Memorial Hospital, Waldo County General Hospital, and Pen Bay Medical Center. Up and coming participants include St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Mid Coast Hospital.

Expanded access via the Lifespan Program, part of the NCORP funding mechanism, will include clinical trials at Franklin Memorial Hospital, Lincoln Health, and Memorial Hospital in North Conway, not to mention a tripling of the number of clinical trials generally available within MHCCN that are part of the ongoing NHI funding for the region.

MaineHealth Cancer Care Network

Founded in 2014, the organization seeks to bring optimized cancer care as close to the home as possible. Committed to patient engagement and the “patient’s journey” as they connect with tailored cancer care services, MHCCN is making it easier for them to fully participate and follow through with their treatment plans. The Lifespan Program now advances the vision and brings infrastructure, resources, and capacity as well enhances the portfolio of investigators and develops new investigators in Maine.

Lead Research/Investigator

Scott Remick, MD, Maine Medical Center Chief of Oncology and one of three principal investigators of the Lifespan Program

Christopher Darus, MD, chair of MaineHealth’s Oncology Protocol Review Committee and principal investigator of the NCORP grant

Peter Rubin, MD, principal investigator

Call to Action: If you are a resident of Maine or adjacent New Hampshire, learn more about the Lifespan Program as overall the number of clinical trials are tripling in the region. We also provide links to the three principle investigators. TrialSite News’ Weekly Digest offers updates as well.

Source: Penobscot Bay Pilot

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