The Cancer Program at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces reached 100 enrollments in clinical trials last month. To celebrate, MemorialMedicalCenter will host a HERO event for all southern New Mexico clinical trial participants and their guests on June 15th. The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, a nonprofit organization that enables people throughout the state to participate in clinical trials while continuing to see physicians in their own communities, will co-sponsor the event.
Paul Herzog, CEO of Memorial Medical Center, is proud of the Cancer Program’s accomplishment. He says, “We are proud to be offering New Mexicans in the southern part of the state access to clinical trials. We are excited that our program has reached such an important milestone and that we are providing important information to our global cancer research community.”
HERO stands for “Helping to Enhance Research in Oncology.” The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance chose this name not only to describe the annual celebration they initiated in 2005 but also to describe what the participants do. Teresa Stewart, Executive Director of the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance and Director of the Clinical Research Office at the UNM Cancer Center, says, “These patients are heroes because they’re allowing us to advance scientific knowledge on cancer research, treatment or diagnosis.”
William Adler, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine and serves as Medical Director of the Memorial Medical Center Cancer Program. He is the principal investigator for its clinical research activities. “It takes a tremendous amount of effort to run a clinical research program,” he says. “But the only way that we know how to treat people today is because people participated in clinical trials in previous years. By doing research, we have teased out over the years what type of treatment is best for different people.” Such research enables people to work with their physicians to decide which treatments will work best for them.
Some participants initially worry about being testers for new treatments. But Dr. Adler explains that clinical trials offer access to novel treatments before they’re publicly available as was the case of Herceptin®, a drug used to treat breast cancer. Many courses of treatment take years to wind through the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process. He says, “There may be something in the clinical trial that hasn’t been FDA-approved and that a patient may get years before it is approved.”
Kim Hoffman, RN, is the Cancer Clinic Research Nurse at Memorial Medical Center and oversees the treatments that participants receive. She depends heavily on the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance’s support for the Cancer Program’s regulatory, research, budgeting, contracting and record-keeping needs. In turn, the cancer clinical trials at MemorialMedicalCenter provide important research data. “Our rate for enrollment for minorities is over 50 percent, which is impressive” say Ms. Hoffman. Research on how cancer treatments affect people of Hispanic, Native American, and other ethnicities is important and often difficult to obtain.
But what inspires Dr. Adler and Ms. Hoffman the most is the generosity of their clinical trial participants. Ms. Hoffman explains, “What I hear most frequently as to why a patient wants to be enrolled in a trial is that ‘it might not help me but it might help my family or someone else that has this cancer.’ These are very giving, very special people that participate in clinical trials.” Certainly, the name HERO fits.
About the Las Cruces HERO Event
The HERO event will be held June 15, 2013, from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. at the Memorial Medical Center Annex Conference Rooms. Clinical trial participants will be honored at this event.
About the Memorial Medical Center Cancer Program
The Memorial Medical Center Cancer Program was developed in 2008 and is the only institution in Southern New Mexico that offers clinical trials. In collaboration with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance and The University of New Mexico Cancer Center, Memorial Medical Center is able to offer state-of-the-art, cutting-edge clinical trials from international, Cooperative Group, and pharmaceutical sponsors.
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 67 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 $72 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 www.cancer.unm.edu.