September 29, 2014

$7 Million Clinical Research Grant a Big Win for All New Mexicans

By msequeira
NCORP Grant from NCI helps UNM Cancer Center and New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance reach more New Mexicans with a wider range of clinical trials

The University of New Mexico Cancer Center won a 5-year $7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute’s National Community Oncology Research Program. The NCORP grant will strengthen and expand the clinical trials network in New Mexico. The NCI called the New Mexico NCORP “a model for community-based participatory cancer research” and said that it “is likely to have exceptional impact in clinical trial and cancer care delivery research.”

As the parent institution for the NCORP grant, UNM Cancer Center will work closely with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, the statewide health care partnership for cancer clinical trials. The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance began in 2002 when Cheryl Willman, MD, Director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center, joined forces with two community-based oncology physicians, Lovelace Health System and Presbyterian Health Care Services. They saw the need to improve cancer care in New Mexico. The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance has grown since. The NCI sees several strengths in this academic-community health care partnership model. It awarded 14 percent of the total program funding for this year to the New Mexico NCORP, one of the highest amounts in the country.

The academic-community health care partnership in New Mexico enables people all over the state to take part in clinical trials, even if they live in rural and underserved areas. The NCI has listed expansion of clinical trial access nationwide as one of its goals. “Most people with cancer are seen in community hospitals and practices,” says Melanie Royce, MD, PhD. Dr. Royce and Carolyn Muller, MD, both at the UNM Cancer Center, serve as co-principal investigators — the lead scientists — for the NCORP grant. Dr. Royce says, “If we do not include them in clinical trials, we miss many cancer patients who are critical to answering important questions about our treatment and management of cancer.”

Mitchell Binder, MD, medical director of The Cancer Center at Presbyterian, agrees. “As a community-based oncologist and founding member of the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, I am thrilled to participate in the NCI National Community Oncology Research Program,” he says. “This effort builds upon the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance’s successful efforts to help New Mexico cancer patients access local clinical trials and provide information from the latest research studies. My colleagues and I are committed to achieving greater access to and enrollment in oncology clinical trials for all New Mexicans.”

The NCI also values the unique populations in New Mexico because people in these populations can have markedly different patterns of cancer incidence and different responses to standard cancer treatments. By bringing clinical trials to the entire state, the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance makes studies about different cancer patterns and treatments possible. And the people taking part in the clinical trials get the benefit of a new treatment years before it gets approval without ever having to leave their community or their doctor.

The academic-community health care partnership model has performed well for the past 13 years. Since 2002, the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance has grown to include five community hospitals and healthcare systems and over 100 community-based physicians. It operates as an independent entity, with its own set of by-laws and a 17-member Board of Directors that oversees its operations. The Board includes many representatives from the membership.

The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance has established a structure to support all aspects of clinical research. Physicians throughout the state get clerical and other help to meet the increased patient-monitoring needs of a clinical trial and to capture data for clinical research. The New Mexico Tumor Registry, part of the NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, works closely with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance to manage data and specimens for clinical research. Several pathology laboratories and collection centers also work jointly within the network.

The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance also draws on the talents of clinical researchers at UNM, like Dr. Royce and Dr. Muller, who have experience in developing and managing large-scale clinical trials. Epidemiologists, like Anita Kinney, PhD, RN at the UNM Cancer Center, can suggest, design and manage cancer population studies. Dr. Kinney is the Lead Investigator for the Cancer Care Delivery Research, which is a new component of the NCI clinical research program. It includes population based cancer control and survivorship research.

In its evaluation, the NCI noted the strength of the leadership at the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance and the UNM Cancer Center Clinical Research Office. It also praised the level of state government support that both organizations receive. “What we’ve done in New Mexico is the model for the rest of the country,” says Teresa Stewart, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance. Ms. Stewart has over 10 years’ experience in managing clinical trials from their beginnings to releasing final results. She says, “What has been created here in New Mexico — with the community partnership between the academic institution and all the community hospitals and physicians — is really what [the NCI] wants for this grant and we have been doing this since 2002.”

The UNM Cancer Center and the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance are thrilled to receive the NCORP grant. “The UNM Cancer Center is the preeminent cancer clinical trials organization in the state,” says Dr. Willman. “We serve all New Mexicans and this NCORP grant will help us reach more of our rural and underserved population.”


About Cheryl L. Willman, MD

Cheryl Willman, MD

Cheryl Willman, MD

Cheryl L. Willman, MD is the Director and CEO of the University of New Mexico (UNM) Cancer Center and a Professor of Pathology and Internal Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine where she holds the Maurice and Marguerite Liberman Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. Dr. Willman received her M.D. in 1981 from The Mayo School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. Awarded one of the first NIH Physician Scientist Awards in 1984, Dr. Willman completed her residency and post-doctoral training in pathology and cancer research at the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC, UNM, and the University of Washington in Seattle. She is an internationally recognized leukemia researcher, whose work now focuses on the use of comprehensive genomic technologies to identify novel targets for improved diagnosis, risk classification, and therapy, and, the translation of these new targets to diagnostics, therapeutics, and clinical trials. She has played significant leadership roles in the leukemia translational medicine studies in two of the NCI Cooperative Groups, COG and SWOG and has been consistently funded by the NIH, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and HHMI for over 25 years.


About Melanie Royce, MD, PhD
royce preferred smallMelanie E. Royce MD, PhD, is a tenured Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology at the UNM Cancer Center. She received her PhD and MD degrees at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and a Medical Oncology fellowship at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Dr. Royce is the Director of the UNM Cancer Center Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic and Programs. She cares for breast cancer patients and oversees a number of clinical trials in breast cancer. She collaborates with a number of UNM Cancer Center basic and population scientists to understand and overcome some of the disparities in breast cancer seen among our unique New Mexico population.


About Carolyn Muller, MD

Carolyn Muller, MD

Carolyn Muller, MD

Carolyn Muller, MD, is a tenured Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and is the Director of its Division of Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Muller is the Chair of the Data Safety Monitoring Committee for the UNM Cancer Center’s Clinical Research Office and Chief of the Gynecologic Cancer Clinical Working Group. Dr. Muller received her MD from the University of Pennsylvania. Following graduation, she completed her residency in Gynecology and Obstetrics at Pennsylvania Hospital in 1992. She completed a Gynecologic Oncology fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 1996 and continued with a postdoctoral fellowship in Molecular Biology as an Assistant Professor. She joined UNM in 2004.


About Anita Kinney PhD, RN
Kinney-bluebkgrd-UnCoat_webcomprAnita Kinney, PhD, RN joined the UNM Cancer Center from Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah last year. She trained at the University of Pennsylvania, UT-Houston School of Public Health, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Kinney is an international and highly acclaimed expert in cancer prevention and public health. Her research focuses on understanding variations in cancer risk, outcomes, cognitions and emotions in populations and communities. With a particular emphasis on breast and colorectal cancer, she is improving health behaviors and cancer survivorship and reducing cancer risk in diverse populations.


About Teresa Stewart, MS

Teresa Stewart, MS

Teresa Stewart, MS

Teresa Stewart, MS, is the Director of the Clinical Research Office at the UNM Cancer Center and is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance. She is responsible for the operations at both organizations, including financial management. She currently serves on the Association of American Cancer Institute’s Clinical Research Initiative Committee and on the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Cancer Research Forum Committee.


About Mitchell Binder, MD

Mitchell Binder, MD

Mitchell Binder, MD

Mitchell Binder, MD, medical director of The Cancer Center at Presbyterian, is also a founding member of the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance. Dr. Binder joined Presbyterian Healthcare Services in 2007 and is board-certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hematology. He is a highly-respected Albuquerque physician who believes that his patients and their families deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. Prior to joining Presbyterian, Dr. Binder led the hematology/medical oncology group at Lovelace Health System for many years.


About the NCORP Grant
The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health will support the research reported in this publication under Award Number 1UG1CA189856-01, Principal Investigators: Carolyn Y Muller, MD, and Melanie E Royce (contact), MD, PhD. The publication content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

The Primary Community Component Site for this grant is:
Albuquerque: UNM Health Sciences Center Cancer Center

The Community Site Components for this grant are:
Lovelace Health Systems
Hematology Oncology Associates
Presbyterian Healthcare Services
Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates
Memorial Medical Center
CHRISTUS St Vincent Regional Medical Center

The NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) is a national network of investigators, cancer care providers, academic institutions, and other organizations that provide care to diverse populations in community-based healthcare practices across the United States. This effort is a collaboration between NCI's Divisions of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, and Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. Learn more about NCORP at:

About the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance
New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, NMCCA, supports New Mexico cancer patients, their families, and their loved ones by helping patients get access to local investigational treatments and providing the latest information from cancer research studies. A small group of dedicated cancer physicians in Albuquerque formed the Alliance because they were concerned that the newest investigational cancer treatments were only available through research studies and clinical trials conducted outside the state. They saw firsthand that the economic and emotional costs of travel too often kept New Mexico cancer patients from participating in these programs.

NMCCA helps New Mexicans get access to new, investigational oncology research treatments by: maintaining a registry of information about oncology clinical trials; working with government agencies and pharmaceutical companies to bring clinical research trials to New Mexico; handling the administrative work that is required to open and manage local research studies; and, sponsoring training sessions for patients and physicians about the latest oncology research findings.

Learn more at: For the full list of the more than 30 institutional, private practice and affiliate members, please visit:

About the UNM Cancer Center
The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state. One of just 68 premier NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence, contributions to cancer research, the delivery of high quality, state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment to all New Mexicans, and its community outreach programs statewide. Annual federal and private funding of over $77 million supports the UNM Cancer Center’s research programs. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 60 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. It is home to New Mexico’s largest team of board-certified oncology physicians and research scientists, representing every cancer specialty and hailing from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic. Through its partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, the UNM Cancer Center brings world-class cancer care to the southern part of the state; its collaborative clinical programs in Santa Fe and Farmington serve northern New Mexico and it is developing new collaborative programs in Alamogordo and in Roswell/Carlsbad. The UNM Cancer Center also supports several community outreach programs to make cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment available to every New Mexican. Learn more at

UNM Cancer Center contact information
Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, 505-340-5929,
Michele Sequeira, UNM Cancer Center, 505-925-0486,



Tags: clinical research, clinical trial, grant, Press Release Archive 2014