VA, NIH strike deal to expand cancer care for veterans

Veterans with cancer will get a shot at receiving innovative treatments under a deal announced Tuesday that will bolster clinical trials at a dozen VA facilities across the country.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a robust clinical research program but it struggles to set up and participate in trials funded by outside agencies, including the National Cancer Institute’s national trials network.

Under the agreement, the NCI — a division of the National Institutes of Health — will help the VA navigate the process by offering dedicated staffing and resources to make sure eligible veterans can try cutting-edge treatments, including “precision-medicine” techniques that are based on an individual patient’s genetics and immunotherapies that use a patient’s own immune system to generate cures.

The VA said it will put an emphasis on enrolling minorities, “who often have less access to new treatments and are not as well represented in clinical trials in the U.S.”

Government officials declared it a win-win for veterans and science.

“By increasing enrollment in cancer clinical trials, VA and veterans will be contributing to important oncology research,” said VA Chief Research and Development Officer Rachel Ramoni. “This will not only help our veterans, but also advance cancer care for all Americans, and people around the world.”

The program, dubbed “NAVIGATE,” will be implemented at facilities in Atlanta; the Bronx, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver; Durham, North Carolina; Hines, Illinois; Long Beach, California; Minneapolis; Palo Alto, California; Portland, Oregon; San Antonio; and West Haven, Connecticut.

The VA and NCI will manage the program together for three years, after the veterans’ agency should be able to navigate trials on its own and share what they’ve learned with other VA facilities across the nation.

 

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