Graham Cancer Center Ranks as a National Leader for Patient Participation in Clinical Trials

Nicholas Petrelli, M.D.

For its outstanding patient participation rate in cancer clinical trials, ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute has earned top national rankings from several organizations of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

ChristianaCare’s patient participation rate into cancer clinical trials each year is nearly 30% – more than seven times the national average of 4%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, ChristianaCare’s research team rose to the challenge to continue to enroll patients safely into cancer clinical trials.

The latest top rankings are from the National Cancer Institute’s NRG Oncology Research Group. On Jan, 29 NRG Oncology ranked the Graham Cancer Center No. 1 for the period 2017-2020 among 46 National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) sites. The ranking is for clinical trials under the NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention Program.

For the same 2017-2020 period, NRG Oncology ranked the Graham Cancer Center No. 3 for trials under a different organization, NCI’s Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program.

NRG Oncology is one of five U.S. research groups participating in NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network and leads clinical trials at NCORP sites. NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Cancer Therapy Evaluation programs sponsor different kinds of cancer clinical trials at NCORP sites.

But that’s not all. The Wake Forest NCORP Research Base in October 2020 recognized the Graham Cancer Center for achieving the 2nd highest participation rate out of 94 nationwide sites participating in its research program. And the Graham Cancer Center was awarded a Certificate of Commendation for its high patient participation rate from the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, another member of NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network.

“Congratulations to our physicians and the entire research team for this national recognition and the tremendous accomplishments that we have been able to maintain, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for multiple years,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“Their unwavering commitment to research broadens opportunities for our patients to participate safely in the latest and most promising cancer treatments without leaving Delaware.”

Gregory Masters, M.D.

In 2020, the Graham Cancer Center diagnosed 3,265 new cases of cancer. At the same time, more than 960 patients were enrolled in clinical trials for cancer prevention, treatment and cancer control.

“Our program is at the cutting edge and goes above and well beyond the national standard,” said Gregory Masters, M.D., NCORP principal investigator at ChristianaCare.

“Our 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.”

In his role, Dr. Masters keeps up with the latest research nationwide and educates ChristianaCare physicians, nurses and research staff about available trials that may be appropriate for their patients.

“The key to our continued 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,” said Marta Hayden, MSN, RN, OCN, senior manager of Cancer Research at ChristianaCare. “We want to be on the forefront of research and our team has really stepped up.”

Cancer clinical trials are the key to making progress against cancer, according to the NCI. Thanks to clinical trials, people are living longer lives due to successful cancer treatments that are the result of past clinical trials.

Through clinical trials, physicians determine whether new treatments are safe and effective and work better than current treatments. Clinical trials also help find new ways to prevent and detect cancer and help improve the quality of life for people during and after treatment.

Patients receive many benefits from clinical trials. By joining a trial, patients:

  • Receive an extra layer of medical care with frequent follow-up and progress assessments.
  • May achieve better outcomes than those not enrolled in a study.
  • Receive access to the latest treatments long before they may become widely available.
  • Assist scientists to learn more about cancer and help others in the future.

ChristianaCare’s cancer research program began in 1987 following a decision by the NCI to expand research to include community hospitals. The program at the Graham Cancer Center has grown over the years to include at any one time about 120 clinical trials that are available to a growing number of eligible patients.