Advocate Aurora to expand cancer research with $10.2 million grant

Dr. Thomas Saphner Aurora cancer research
Dr. Thomas Saphner, co-principal investigator of Aurora’s NCORP program.

Last updated on August 27th, 2019 at 04:36 pm

Advocate Aurora Health, which currently operates clinical trials at 18 Aurora clinic locations, will begin offering trials at 13 legacy Advocate sites through a new $10.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The six-year grant will continue and build on the research Aurora has conducted through an initial five-year, $4.6 million, NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) grant, which began in 2014 and ran through July 2019. NCORP makes clinical cancer trials accessible in community-based clinics, rather than major research centers.

Through the initial grant, Aurora opened 78 NCI trials across 18 existing cancer clinics in eastern Wisconsin, enrolling more than 1,200 participants. Clinical trials have included those for brain, breast, lung and prostate cancers, as well as for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

“It’s been really important because, without access to clinical trials in those community settings, patients have to travel to major research institutes, which tend to be in big cities,” said Dr. Amy Beres, oncology research director for the Aurora Research Institute.  “And as you can imagine, for a cancer patient to be able to stay close to home during their treatment usually leads to better outcomes because they’re close to home and they follow up with the care and are often more willing to enroll in clinical trials because they don’t have to travel as often.”

With the new grant, the health system will continue operating clinical trials at the existing sites and expand to 13 Advocate clinics across northern Illinois.

The new sites include Advocate Children’s Hospital’s two main campuses, which will allow the health system to participate in pediatric clinical trials. Aurora does not have a pediatric site in its Wisconsin network.

The grant, which is Aurora’s largest-ever research award, will run from August 2019 to July 2025.

“NCORP is a critical, federally-funded program that allows our health system to bring cancer clinical trials to people in their own communities instead of restricting them to major research institutions,” said Dr. Thomas Saphner, Aurora Health Care co-principal investigator. “We’re proud to have been selected to continue this important work as a partner of the National Cancer Institute.”

The addition of the Advocate sites will allow the health system to significantly increase the number of patients it enrolls in clinical trials, which are aimed at improving treatments, symptom management and cancer care delivery.

“The NCI was very excited about the addition of the Illinois sites,” Beres said. “In Wisconsin, Aurora has historically seen more than 8,000 new cancer patients a year, and that number is slightly (higher) in Illinois. Together, we’re at about 18,000 new cancer cases per year. That’s a huge number of patients we could potentially reach with new therapies.”


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