Ted Simons: AN ARIZONA-BASED RESEARCH TEAM IS GETTING AN $18 MILLION GRANT TO FIGHT PANCREATIC CANCER. THE MONEY COMES FROM "STAND UP TO CANCER", A CHARITY SPONSORED BY THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY. LATE LAST MONTH, IT AWARDED NEARLY $74 MILLION TO FIVE CANCER RESEARCH DREAM TEAMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. ONE OF THOSE TEAMS IS A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN PHOENIX-BASED T-GEN AND THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA. AS DAVID MAJURE REPORTS, THE TEAM WILL DO ITS RESEARCH AT T-GEN CLINICAL RESEARCH SERVICES AT SCOTTSDALE HEALTHCARE.
Joyce Ingold, RN: How are you feeling today?
Patrick Ryan: Well, pretty good considering I've just come off another cycle of chemotherapy.
David Majure: Patrick Ryan is part of a cancer clinical trial conducted by T-gen clinical research at Scottsdale healthcare. He's getting quality medical care, while helping researchers test new drugs and new procedures for treating cancer.
Ramesh Ramanathan, MD: Clinical research is very important. One of the things that held us back is very few patients in the country get treated on a clinical trial, less than 5%. That has really slowed incorporating new drugs into treatment. We would encourage patients to look into clinical trials when they are diagnosed with cancer.
David Majure: Clinical trails by very nature experimental but they are regulated by the federal government to minimize risk and maximize patient safety.
Joyce Ingold, RN: Clinical trial is for standard of care for cancer and the cancer is resistant to that and cancers that there's not a standard of therapy for and depending on the cancer they jump into a clinical trial.
David Majure: Patrick Ryan is a good example.
Patrick Ryan: A little more than a year ago I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When you are first diagnosed, it's almost told like you got a death sentence.
>> I would let the patient know.
Ramesh Ramanathan, MD: Few patients live more than a year with advanced pancreatic cancer. The goal is to increase initially the one-year survival rate because we see very few patients living more than a year. We are on the verge of making major break throughs.
David Majure: On the new $18 million Grant from Stand Up To Cancer will help. The money will be used by T-gen in partnership with university of Pennsylvania to find new ways to fight pancreatic cancer.
Ramesh Ramanathan, MD: We will look at new ways of starving the pancreatic cancer growth and new ways to add to the ongoing clinical trails. One of the main areas we focus on here is pancreatic cancer. It's been a difficult cancer to treat. There's very few treatment options and most patients don't respond to chemotherapy and this Grant will help us take discoveries made in the laboratory to patient's care.
Patrick Ryan: Hopefully these researchers and doctors will keep learning more about this disease and will eventually be able to through their research and trails come up with a cure for this disease.
David Majure: It's a disease that's usually fatal in less than a year. Now in his 14th month of treatment, Patrick Ryan is beating those odds.
Patrick Ryan: Thanks to your faith and support from the family and wonderful people at T-gen, you keep fighting. I think that's what is important. Keep up the good fight.
Ted Simons: HERE NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE CLINICAL TRIALS AND THE $18 MILLION GRANT IS DR. MARK SLATER, VICE PRESIDENT OF RESEARCH FOR SCOTTSDALE HEALTHCARE. Thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Why was T-gen and Scottsdale healthcare targeted for this money?
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: You know, we put together a partnership between T-gen and Scottsdale healthcare in late 2005. It's a joint program that brings the best of the bench science research with the best of patient care together. So we have physician scientists who are paired up with Ph.D. scientists in the laboratory and use the advanced technology from T-gen and molecular diagnostics and target patient's tumors to better understand what makes them live and where they might be vulnerable and better prescribe treatments that are target to the therapies. This pulling tonight the science and clinical care is unique in a community hospital setting to allow this kind of work. That's why I think we are recognized as one of the sites for the dream team studies.
Ted Simons: I noticed in the tape the goal here is to starve the cancer cells. How does that differ from most cancer research? Isn't that the goal of most cancer research?
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: The goal is to try to poison the tumor and you basically hope the cancer dies before the patient does. It's toxic and very difficult kinds of therapies for patients to tolerate. New thinking has been if we can understand more about the molecular basis of those cancers, what feeds them, what makes them grow and replicate, we can target therapies that go straight to the cell. Shutoff in this case the fuel supply that helps those cells to grow and replicate and that way spare the person and be able to starve the cancer.
Ted Simons: Why is pancreatic cancer such a tough customer?
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: It has been one of our biggest challenges. It has some of the poorest survival. There's very few new treatments that have come along. We've been really stuck for a long time. Fortunately we have one of the world's experts in pancreatic cancer and drug development here in Dr. Von Hoff who is the chief scientific officer and P.I. on the study. We think the new interventions that are targeted and take advantage of the new science of understanding the disease can have a real difference. In fact during the past year Dr. Von Hoff’s team presented results from life expectancy of patients.
Ted Simons: The goal for Stand Up To Cancer is to quickly turn scientific discoveries into better care. Why is that not happening quicker now?
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: That's the goal of the transitional approach. We have been marrying the bedside together. Traditionally they are doing this in isolated areas in universities or research institutes that are separate from patient care. What we have tried to do is shorten that time but putting those teams together so that the scientists learn from the doctors who learn from the patients and the findings from the laboratory go straight into patient care. We are not waiting for new break throughs but we are bringing those new technologies to the patients today for benefits today.
Ted Simons: How careful do you have to be as far as experimental technology and drugs, you have to be careful, don't you?
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: Absolutely. These are patients' lives at stake. There's a strict process we go through in development before any treatments are given to people. They are tested in laboratories. There's preclinical studies done first. Then we have conducted more than 40 first in human studies in our facility where patients are monitored very closely and one of the things we find that patients often do better in clinical trails than in routine care because of all the careful monitoring and extra services they get as a part of the study.
Ted Simons: Briefly, can patients still get involved in some of the trails?
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: Absolutely, patients can get involved in this. The best way to do this is contact the patient care coordinator who can understand where they are at in their cancer journey, where the best opportunities are for them and patients don't have to be at the end stage of their illness to qualify for clinical trails and benefit from them. It's sorting out what's best for each individual.
Ted Simons: Doctor, congratulations and thank you for joining us.
Mark Alater, Ph.D.: Thank you for your interest