New ECU, Vidant partnership provides access to clinical trials for rare cancers

A new clinical trial partnership between East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health, which officially began on Jan. 1, has been awarded membership to the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology ahead of schedule. The honor is based on the partnership’s success in providing access to clinical trials for rare cancers.

The Alliance, which is part of the National Clinical Trials Network, is composed of 10,000 cancer specialists across the United States and Canada who develop and conduct high-quality, multidisciplinary cancer control, prevention and treatment trials.

Health care providers typically must demonstrate their ability to meet an annual average enrollment of at least 15 patients in specific clinical trials for rare cancers over a three-year period in order to become Alliance members. However, the ECU and Vidant organizations combined for 17 patient accruals last year and already have 17 this year, which prompted the Alliance to grant ECU and Vidant membership earlier than expected.

“This is a good thing, because it means that throughout the network here at ECU and Vidant, we are offering more and more trials to our patients, especially patients with more unusual diseases,” said Dr. Darla Liles, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. “Hopefully this encourages more people to consider a clinical trial, because I think there is some hesitancy. I think the more people learn that we have these trials — and they don’t have to go to UNC and Duke for these trials, they can get it done right here — the more they will realize that these are really good things that offer cutting-edge treatments for cancer patients.”

Because ECU and Vidant are now members of the Alliance, cancer patients throughout the East will now have access to a larger pool of state-of-the-art clinical trials at ECU and Vidant clinics, including trials for breast, gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers, as well as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, neuro-oncology and respiratory cancers.

“Whether in Greenville or at any of Vidant’s Commission on Cancer-accredited community hospitals, the Alliance partnership between ECU and Vidant represents the shared vision of providing state-of-the-art cancer care in our region, regardless of where or by whom that care is delivered,” said Dr. Emmanuel Zervos, surgical oncologist and director of Vidant Cancer Care.  “Cancer services has been at the forefront of collaboration because of the profound impact that cancer has on our region — validation of this collaboration through accelerated full and unrestricted membership into the Alliance assures that these patients will continue to be served both now and into the future.

Dr. Michael Waldrum, dean of the Brody School of Medicine and CEO of Vidant Health, said that the success of ECU and Vidant in enrolling patients in these state-of-the-art trials demonstrates how vital both organizations are to the health of residents throughout eastern North Carolina and that while they are each exceptional, they are stronger together.

On June 23, ECU Chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers announced ECU will move toward full clinical integration with Vidant Health and the creation of a distinctive health system brand — ECU Health or similar branding — to serve the 1.4 million residents of eastern North Carolina.

“We are on a path to transform delivery of health care to this region through an academic health care enterprise that will represent the highest quality of health care and a strong commitment to research and innovation,” Waldrum said. “Our ability to provide access to these clinical cancer trials is not only a benefit to current patients in the East, but also for patients across the world and for generations to come.”

Visit ECU’s Office of Clinical Trials website or Vidant Health’s Cancer Clinical Trials website for more information on available clinical trials.