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Advancing Access to Innovative Cancer Treatments in the Gulf South

Marc Matrana, MD

September 19, 2018
Science Laboratory Research

In this guest blog post, learn how 2018 ACCC Innovator Award recipient Ochsner Health System, Ochsner Cancer Institute of New Orleans is helping cancer patients access early-phase clinical trials close to home.

Age-adjusted mortality rates from cancer are higher in Louisiana than the national average. Every day, 70 Louisianans receive a cancer diagnosis, and 23 Louisianans die of cancer.

In April 2017, the Ochsner Cancer Institute of New Orleans launched a program the aims to change that, helping make it one of this year’s ACCC Innovator Award honorees.

A little more than one year ago, Ochsner Cancer Institute, in partnership with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) of Phoenix, Arizona, formally launched the Ochsner Precision Cancer Therapies Program. To date, it remains the only program between Houston and Birmingham dedicated to providing access to early-phase clinical trials for patients with cancer. Through this collaboration, Ochsner combines its clinical expertise and a wide breadth of clinical resources and services with TGen’s translational research strength.

More Options for the Community
Early-phase clinical trials allow patients to receive innovative therapies years before they are more widely available. They provide often efficacious treatment options to patients who have exhausted all other options. Since its inception, the Ochsner Precision Cancer Therapies Program has opened dozens of early-phase trials and accrued hundreds of cancer patients to these studies, increased referrals, and brought new options and hope to cancer patients in our region. View video for more.

Together We Are Stronger 
ACCC’s message that “Together We are Stronger” aligns with Ochsner Cancer Institute’s collaborative approach to advancing cancer treatment and patient care in the community. Through its partnership with Strata Oncology, the Precision Cancer Therapies Program offers free next-generation sequencing to nearly every patient with advanced cancer who walks through our doors. Not only does this advanced genomic testing allow for patient stratification onto clinical trials, but in many cases, it also provides physicians with the necessary information to select the most tailored, precise therapies possible. To further these efforts, the Precision Cancer Therapies Program and the Ochsner Department of Pathology have initiated a molecular tumor board that meets regularly to dissect genomic test results and brainstorm about treatment options for individual patients.

Garnering Philanthropic Support
The Precision Cancer Therapies Program has inspired much philanthropic support. In 2017, 450 gifts totaling more than $2 million were given to the program, including one generous donation by Ochsner cancer patient Wayne Leonard. Leonard was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and was one of the first patients to qualify for our precision oncology testing.

As we continue to grow and scale the Precision Cancer Therapies Program’s early-phase clinical trials and precision oncology efforts, we look to make our healthcare system’s resources available beyond our academic main campus. Ochsner understands the power of collaboration. Through telehealth and other technologies, we look forward to bringing our molecular tumor boards to remote hospitals throughout our region, conducting virtual clinical trial consults, and regularly connecting with colleagues who would otherwise be outside of our geographic reach. 

Join us at the  ACCC 35th National Oncology Conference in October to learn more about why Ochsner Health System leadership made the bold decision to create the Precision Cancer Therapies Program, how it is impacting our program and cancer patients across our region.

Guest blogger ACCC member Marc Matrana, MD, is medical director of the Ochsner Precision Cancer Therapies Program.

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