Northwest Hospitals To Bring Experimental Cancer Treatments To Underserved Areas

Aug 11, 2014

For someone with cancer who lives far from a big city, it can be hard to access cutting-edge care, but a network of Northwest hospitals is getting millions to bring clinical cancer trials to far-flung communities.

Clinical trials study experimental drugs and therapies, and they're the main tool for bringing new treatments to market. But they can also have more immediate benefits for the people enrolled in a study.

Thomas Brown, executive director of the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, said access to clinical trials tends to lead to better results.

“It is a tenet of modern cancer care, and this is somewhat different than most areas of medicine, that participation in clinical trials is one of the indicators of quality,” he said.

The benefits might come because a patient gets in early on a good drug, but even patients who don’t still tend to get more follow-up and more attention when they’re enrolled in a study.

Right now, people in underserved communities have to travel to places like Seattle to get into a trial. That means paying for transportation, figuring out lodging, leaving behind one’s your support network, all while being terribly sick.

Swedish, along with partners in Portland and Boise, just got $6.6 million from the National Cancer Institute, a federal agency. It will pay for hundreds of patients a year to get that care much closer to home at one of about 40 clinical sites around the West Coast.