Charleston VA among lead sites in new effort to enroll more Vets with cancer in clinical trials

Press Release

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Veterans at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center with cancer will now have more access to the latest treatment options, thanks to a partnership between VA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The NCI and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trials Enrollment, or NAVIGATE, is launching at the Charleston VA and 11 other VA sites: Atlanta; the Bronx, New York; Denver; Durham, North Carolina; Hines, Illinois; Long Beach, California; Minneapolis; Palo Alto, California; Portland, Oregon; San Antonio; West Haven, Connecticut; and Boston. Boston will also serve as a coordinating center for the effort.

NAVIGATE will build infrastructure at these VA sites to enable more Veterans to take part in cutting-edge clinical trials sponsored by NCI. Such trials typically test cutting-edge experimental treatments such as precision-medicine therapies based on patients’ genetic profiles, or immunotherapies that harness patients’ own immune systems to bring about cures.

The NAVIGATE network will also establish best practices and share insights to help other VAs nationwide enroll more Veterans in cancer clinical trials. Special attention is being given to minority patients, who often have poorer access to new treatments and are not as well-represented in clinical trials in the U.S.

“By increasing enrollment in these trials, VA and Veterans will be contributing to important oncology research,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “This will not only help our Veterans, but also advance cancer care for all Americans, and people around the world.”

“NAVIGATE will open up participation in many national studies researching such cancers as brain tumors, breast cancer, colon and pancreatic cancer, as well as studies related to the whole health of patients with cancer,” said Ralph H. Johnson VAMC Director and Chief Executive Officer Scott Isaacks. “We have been involved in cancer research for many years, and have seen many advances in several fields through the work done by more than 90 principal investigators at our VA. This collaborative effort will help further research, hopefully leading to better understanding and treatment options for cancers that are most prevalent in the Veteran population, and benefitting the citizens of this country who struggle with these diseases at the same time.”

While VA has a robust research program—including clinical trials on cancer and other diseases—at more than 100 sites nationwide, VA facilities often face challenges initiating and completing trials, including ones conducted through the NCI National Clinical Trials Network. Local VA research staff, for example, may lack adequate support to handle certain regulatory and administrative tasks involved in these studies. NAVIGATE will help remove those barriers.

NAVIGATE will also seek to enroll Veterans in trials sponsored by NCI’s Community Oncology Research Program that focus on cancer prevention and symptom management.

VA’s involvement in NAVIGATE is being managed through the Cooperative Studies Program, part of VA’s Office of Research and Development. CSP has a long history of running impactful clinical trials focused on Veterans’ health needs. To learn more about CSP and VA Research overall, visit www.research.va.gov.

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