In June 2018, a clinical research study funded by the National Cancer Institute showed that most women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer may now be able to receive successful treatment that does not include chemotherapy. Most women in this situation don't need treatment beyond surgery and hormone therapy.
In these cases, the women's hormones (estrogen or progesterone) are in an early-stage of the disease which means that they have not spread to lymph nodes. These stages of cancer are not the type that chemotherapy targets. Treatment would include surgery followed by years of a hormone-blocking drug.
This study, which never would have happened without clinical research, was offered at locations across CHI Health with many women choosing to participate. The findings will transform care immediately, and for the better.
Cancer Treatment Research Advances Care
The idea for a clinical research study—also known as a clinical trial—often starts in the laboratory. After researchers test new therapies or procedures in the laboratory and in animal studies, the most promising experimental treatments are moved into clinical trials, which are conducted in phases.
During a trial, researchers are able to find more information about an experimental treatment, its risks, and its effectiveness. The goal of the research is to produce new knowledge or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.
Through clinical research studies, cancer care is beginning to look at ways of moving away from chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is an older drug, but is still the principal tool that is used to help those diagnosed with cancer. However, the side effects of chemotherapy can be harsh.
What Are Their Options?
More favorable non-chemotherapy treatments might begin with gene-targeting therapies. As a drug or other substance that blocks the spread and growth of cancer, a gene-targeting therapy can interfere with specific molecules that involved growth, progression, and spread of cancer.
Other treatments might include immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses certain parts of a person's immune system to fight the disease. Then the bodies stimulated immune system can begin to work harder and smarter to attack cancer cells.
Research Happens Here
Five years ago leaders at CHI Health worked nationally to start the CHI NCORP (NCI Community Oncology Research Program). The purpose of the program was to partner with the National Cancer Institute so that oncology research trials could be more available at CHI Health hospitals and oncology offices.
Today, clinical oncology research which typically is available at academic hospitals or in large metropolitan cities is also available at CHI Health sites in Kearney, Grand Island, Lincoln, Omaha and southeast Iowa. Oncology research is just another way that CHI Health demonstrates its commitment to our mission of creating healthier communities.