The Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at Christiana Care is among the top 25 Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology sites for enrolling patients into clinical trials.

Researchers across the nation and around the world work to uncover the causes of cancer and devise ways to prevent or treat them. The Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, which comprises nearly 10,000 cancer specialists at 124 hospitals, medical centers and community clinics across the United States and Canada, is one of the leading networks that develops and conducts clinical trials, bringing this research into patient care. Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, an Alliance participating research site, ranks 23rd among the Alliance’s 124 sites for enrolling patients into trials. The ranking is based on recently released data on patient participation in trials from 2014 through 2016.

Christiana Care has a patient participation rate in clinical trials of 21.1 percent, which outperforms the national average of about 3 to 5 percent.

Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“This phenomenal accomplishment is truly an important one for our cancer patients, who have the opportunity to access the very latest and most promising cancer treatments nationwide without leaving Delaware,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. “I applaud our physicians and research nurses for their dedication and commitment to improving the lives of our patients, and for taking a leadership role in improving cancer treatment throughout our nation.”

Christiana Care’s cancer research program began in 1987 following the move by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to expand research beyond the walls of the major research institutions. It has continued to grow. Through a series of reorganizations of the research networks, Christiana Care today is an NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), as well as a member of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, created in 2011 through the merger of several research networks.

Kandie Dempsey, DBA, MS, RN, OCN

“At any one time, Christiana Care has about 110 trials that are available to eligible patients,” said Cancer Research Director Kandie Dempsey, DBA, MS, RN, OCN. “Those include trials for cancer treatment, cancer control and cancer prevention. Our program is robust because of the physician participation. We want to be on the forefront of science.”

In 2015, there were 3,253 new cases of cancer diagnosed at Christiana Care. At the same time, about 690 patients were participating in clinical trials.

“The key to our success is the excellent collaboration between the physicians, the clinical research associates, the nurses, the technicians, our institutional review board members and all of those who reach out into the community,” Dempsey said. “There are tumor conferences and protocol meetings. Results of studies are shared. Our research nurses look for eligible patients and talk to them about entering trials.Results from laboratory studies are shared so that we can help our patients. Everyone has a voice in what we are doing.”

Dempsey acknowledged NCORP principal investigator Gregory A. Masters, M.D. In this role, Dr. Masters keeps up with the latest research nationwide and educates Christiana Care physicians, nurses and research staff about available trials that may be appropriate for their patients. Dr. Masters also oversees trials at Christiana Care.

Gregory A. Masters, M.D.

“Our program is at the cutting edge and goes above and beyond the national standard,” Dr. Masters said, adding that the program provides patients with more opportunities to find the most effective treatments and allows patients to be part of the overall advancement of cancer care. He explained that the trials often compare a standard treatment to a new one, or compare combinations of treatments with one another.

Dr. Masters is one of 40 members serving on the Alliance Board of Directors, which gives him a bird’s eye view of what is happening in research at the national level and the ability to affect its direction.

“We meet several times a year to share our findings and decide on the development of new research,” he said. “This also increases the portfolio of trials available at Christiana Care and gives our patients earlier access to new treatments.”