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Emanuel Cancer Patients Can Participate in Search for New Cures


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             

March 11, 2010

Emanuel Cancer Patients Can Participate in Search for New Cures

Turlock, CA- Cancer patients at Emanuel Medical Center can now help develop a cure for their own disease by participating in national clinical trials of new drugs and treatments.

"This is an exciting moment for Turlock," said Dr. Christopher Perkins, medical director of Emanuel Regional Cancer Services. "Three years ago, comprehensive cancer care wasn't available in the community, and now with Emanuel's comprehensive cancer program, clinical trials are available. What started as a snowflake has become a snowball."

Clinical trials are large-scale tests of new cancer treatments, including new drugs and new drug combinations. The first trials Emanuel patients can enroll in are two breast cancer studies and one colon cancer test. All three trials are testing new drugs that have shown promise in small-scale tests.

"These are called 'Phase 3' trials," Perkins explained. "Patients in these studies will at least be getting the standard of care for their disease, comparing it to something we think will improve our ability to cure cancer."

No one will get a placebo, and no one in a Phase 3 trial is getting an untested drug, Perkins said.

"These drugs have been checked for toxicity and checked that the drug is active for that particular disease," he explained.  Emanuel Medical Center is affiliated with the Stanford Cancer Center in conducting these clinical trials.

Patients participating in the trials must meet specific criteria for that particular study. They must have a certain type of cancer of a certain size and stage and meet other specific criteria spelled out by the study coordinators. Potential participants will be identified by their doctors and area oncologists.

The benefits of participating in a clinical trial can be big. For an individual patient, the trial may give them a treatment that is far better than the current treatment for their disease, one that's simply not available yet.

And the bigger picture is even better.

"Clinical trials are the only way we make advances in cancer care," Perkins said. "All that we know about the current standard of care came through clinical trials; comparing drug A to B and finding that B is better. Then comparing B to C, and C to D.

"That's how we've built our knowledge," he said. "That's why the mortality rate for certain cancers, particularly breast cancer, has come down in the last several years."

For a patient, the trial begins with a doctor explaining the study, the new treatment being tested, and going through the possible benefits and risks, all of which are spelled out in a detailed consent form. Then the patient is given a calendar which schedules every treatment, every test and every examination they'll get during the study period.

In the future, Emanuel patients will be able to enroll in other drug trials, and in radiation-therapy trials using the state-of-the-art Varian Trilogy linear accelerator in the Stanford Emanuel Radiation Oncology Center.

Perkins expects patients in Turlock to embrace the trials.

"Most patients really accept the idea and understand that all cancer patients will benefit. They say, 'People after me will do better,'" he said. "And Turlock is so community-oriented. I've never seen a community so self-supportive, so I really think people here will be eager to participate."

Emanuel Medical Center is a not-for-profit, community-based Christian hospital. Its 415-bed multi-level medical campus includes a 209-bed acute care hospital, a 145-bed skilled nursing facility and a 49-bed assisted living facility. It provides emergency, critical care, pediatric, medical and surgical services, cardiology, cancer diagnosis and treatment services, women's health services, and hospice services.

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