Excellent Cancer Care, Exclusive Clinical Trials

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Research at Thompson Cancer Survival Center Brings New Hope to Patients

Every treatment prescribed by a doctor today has been part of research in a clinical trial. And clinical research for cancer treatments is thriving at Thompson Cancer Survival Center today.

Thirty years after its beginnings, Thompson remains a leader in pivotal clinical research. Research helps answer important questions. And answers to those questions can lay the groundwork for preserving quality of life or even saving lives.

“For instance, our participation in key melanoma trials has paved the way for successful melanoma treatments used today,” says oncologist David Chism, MD, Thompson’s director of clinical research. The results of those early trials are evident in higher survival rates for today’s melanoma patients.

“We have nearly 25 active oncology trials, ranging from individuals affected with triple-negative breast cancer to those diagnosed with aggressive non-small cell cancers,” Dr. Chism says.

The research is so impactful that Thompson’s clinical trials team has been chosen to deliver findings before national organizations, including these trials and organizations:

Earning a place on these national platforms is a very competitive process, and being selected is proof of the widespread respect for this East Tennessee community cancer center.

The Patient Experience

Patients at Thompson Cancer Survival Center get more than great cancer care. They benefit from groundbreaking research by a team of oncology professionals that is like no other in the region.

“If a participant takes a new treatment and if it proves to work, he or she may be among the first to benefit,” Dr. Chism says, adding that the level of care meets the high standards set by Thompson for every patient.

“From one national survey of almost 6,000 people with cancer, in clinical trial participants, 97 percent say they have been treated with dignity and respect and that the quality of care they received was excellent or good,” Dr. Chism says. “Eighty-six percent said their treatment was covered by insurance.” *

Clinical trial participants take an active role in their healthcare. The patient’s local oncologist is connected in the case and can pick the case back up even if the cancer progresses with the trial treatment. Dr. Chism explains that patients can choose to leave the research projects at any time.

“The relationship you have with prior healthcare teams will be unaffected,” Dr. Chism says. “You have expanded your team to include the clinical research family.”

Safety is always the top priority. Safeguards like review boards, and data and safety monitoring boards are in place along with an informed consent process.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, only about three percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Dr. Chism would like research to help more current and future patients.

“One hope is to offer better choices for these patients at home here in Knoxville through clinical trial participation, where their family and friends can be beacons of support,” Dr. Chism says. “With increased participation, more therapies and possible cures can reach those affected faster. Time matters.”

The First Step – Phase One Studies

Thompson’s clinical trials include Phase One studies. This phase means that completing the study is the first step to transforming lab data into clinical data with three primary goals:

  • Determining the toxic effects
  • Determining pharmacological behavior (the way drugs interact with other factors)
  • Determining the recommended dosage for future trials

“With encouraging Phase One data, it not only shows the treatment has an effect, it also allows participants to be among the first to benefit ,” Dr. Chism says.

Later-phase clinical trials also are underway at Thompson. One is examining different combinations of medication for patients who have muscle-invasive bladder cancer and who aren’t eligible for cisplatin chemotherapy before surgery.

“All patients benefit through participation, some directly, but always indirectly in helping push the field forward,” Dr. Chism says.

A Trial Treatment for Lymphoma

A lymphoma clinical trial underway at Thompson features a combination of Epicoritamab and Lenalidomide. Lenalidomide helps the immune system fight cancer. Epicoritamab treats adults who have diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) or high-grade B-Cell lymphoma that comes back or doesn’t improve after other treatments.

Administering the two treatments together to Thompson’s patients participating in the clinical trial according to the approved study regimen helped more than half the participants. For some, it even destroyed the cancer completely.

“The best overall response rate was 72 percent, with 23 out of the 32 patients responding to the combination treatment,” Dr. Chism says. “Of those responding to treatment, 16 patients had a complete response or no detectable disease.”

Patients with relapsed or refractory DLBCL generally have less than positive outcomes, so the Thompson research is delivering hope for a cure that didn’t exist before the clinical trial began.

In December 2023, findings from this ABBVIE-sponsored, pivotal trial were selected for presentation to The American Society of Hematology. Thompson is one of the few sites nationally to participate.

A Trial Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Kristi Simcox, BS, CCRP, system director of clinical research at Thompson, says her team has been enrolling patients in a clinical trial to test a treatment for a form of advanced prostate cancer. In this particular form, the cancer stops responding to standard treatments that lower testosterone.

“With metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, or mCRPC, the cancer stops responding to hormone treatment, and it is found in other parts of the body,” Simcox says. “It can spread to nearby lymph nodes, bones, the bladder, rectum, liver, lungs and maybe the brain.”

This prostate cancer sometimes develops with no signs and no symptoms, and that makes it an even greater threat. “If there are symptoms from mCRPC, they depend on the size of the tumor and where it has spread,” Simcox explains.

Prostate cancer is the most frequently occurring malignant neoplasm (abnormal growth of tissue) in men. Additionally, approved treatments for mCRPC, despite notable advancements, haven’t been able to cure the cancer and can have toxic side effects.

That’s where Dr. Chism, Simcox and the Thompson research team step in. They can help patients access new therapies through clinical trials with the goals of better survival rates and minimizing adverse effects.

“HB-301 and HB-302 are genetically engineered viral carriers. They deliver human prostate cancer-associated PAP and PSA that have been engineered to control tumor development and progression in patients with mCRPC,” Simcox says.

Pursuing a Cure

The research team monitors results and collects data to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Another goal is finding out whether patients will be better able to tolerate the treatment without the toxicity of some of today’s commonly available therapies.

Initial phases and studies for the prostate trial treatment are promising. Thus, research is progressing to clinical studies involving male patients ages 18 and older with an mCRPC diagnosis. Dr. Chism is the lead author in the study. The research has caught the attention of cancer experts on a national level.

“HB-300, a novel arenavirus-based Cancer Immunotherapy in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer” was presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago, Ilinois, in June 2023.

Ben DeVore, president and chief administrative officer at Thompson, offers unwavering support for these studies. He explains that the research is part of of the legacy of Thompson Cancer Survival Center.

“Thompson was the first to bring cancer clinical trials to East Tennessee more than 25 years ago,” DeVore says, “and we are proud to continue our work leading the region in cancer research today.”

If you are a cancer patient and are interested in clinical trial options at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, there are several ways to get more information. Ask your nurse or physician, or visit Thompson Oncology online. You can also call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service (NCI CIS) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

*Harris Interactive. Health Care News; poll

Learn More

For more information about clinical trials at Thompson Cancer Survival Center

To find out more about Thompson’s lymphoma clinical trial

Learn more about Thompson’s prostate cancer clinical trial

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