RandyW Posted April 3, 2010 Share Posted April 3, 2010 STUART — Martin Memorial is conducting an increasing number of clinical trials as Treasure Coast leaders try to build the region’s reputation as a research hub. Martin Memorial Health Systems is one of hundreds of hospitals worldwide, including the National Institutes of Health, testing immunotherapies for lung cancer and melanoma for global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The system has participated in clinical studies for years — mostly through the Robert & Carol Weissman Cancer Center, which is affiliated with the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa — but officials said more opportunities are coming as their and the region’s reputation for research grows. “Companies are actually coming to us now,” said Wendy Ryzner, clinical research site supervisor. Other Treasure Coast hospitals are working on a handful of clinical trials. But it was Martin Memorial’s availability to work with researchers that community leaders regularly cited in luring the biotechnology organizations now working at the Florida Center for Innovation at Tradition in Port St. Lucie. Martin Memorial has been collecting samples since last fall for VGTI Florida’s research into the immune system’s response to influenza. Officials said they expect to start collecting healthy white blood cells for the local arm of Oregon Health & Science University’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute later this year. Right now, Martin Memorial is trying to find patients for the GlaxoSmithKline immunotherapies. If effective, the injectable treatments would basically offer a vaccine against cancer for lung cancer and melanoma patients in remission by targeting cells that give off a specific protein known to be a signal of cancer and preventing them from growing. As in all clinical trials, patients must meet very specific criteria to be a part of the testing group. Few Treasure Coast patients have met that criteria so far. But Ryzner said Martin Memorial is picking trials that offer the most benefit to patients, either because many are affected by the disease being treated or because the disease is particularly fatal or the existing treatment harsh. Lung cancer, for example, is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Martin Memorial is starting to field calls from patients outside the region looking to be screened for the trials. Online searches for new therapies bring them to Martin Memorial and, though none have qualified yet for the studies, the hospital is prepared to offer these traveling patients housing if necessary. “That just brings business to Martin County,” said Debbie Lewandowski, cancer center director. Also, Lewandowski said, the constant education required for hospital staff to participate in the clinical trials raises the level of care offered to all Martin Memorial patients. Incoming nurses who aren’t certified for trials go through a three-month orientation program and a year of on-the-job mentoring. Each study is overseen by a doctor and a coordinating nurse who must understand the science behind the study as well as the exact measures, procedures and requirements. All the trials are done on a voluntary basis. For enrolled patients, the trials usually cover the cost of any care necessary to the study as well as travel expenses when necessary. Some studies provide healthy patients with small payments for their time. Patients living with a disease also get the benefit of hope from a new treatment. “Patients on trials get the best care,” Lewandowski said. “They can’t get lost in the system.” MARTIN MEMORIAL CLINICAL TRIALS Martin Memorial’s Robert & Carol Weissman Cancer Center is enrolling patients in several clinical trials offering targeted immunotherapies, treatments that — in theory — target and stop cancer cells. DERMA trial eligibility: adult patients whose melanoma recently has been — or is scheduled to be — removed surgically and whose tumor produces the MAGE-A3 gene. MAGRIT trial eligibility: Patients with early stage non-small cell lung cancer who have had a tumor removed surgically, are within 12 weeks of the final surgery with no other treatments planned and currently receiving chemotherapy. For more details or to check on other clinical trials, call (772) 288-5858, then press 7, or visit http://www.mmhs.com/content/alltrials.htm. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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