Greenville Health System’s Cancer Institute recently was awarded a multi-million-dollar grant to conduct clinical trials and research studies aimed at improving patient outcomes and reducing health disparities. Our institute is the only community-based site in South Carolina — and one of only 34 institutions nationwide — to receive such a grant from the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
We are proud the nearly $7 million grant distinguishes us as a national leader in cancer care. But more important, we are excited that it supports the growth of innovative research and collaboration with the state’s leading academic and research universities to improve care and outcomes for all South Carolinians.
Our research with the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and Furman University involves a shared academic health center we call the Greenville Health System’s Clinical University, and it is essential to developing new therapies, treatments and prevention programs. The National Cancer Institute’s program, a network of investigators, cancer-care providers and academic institutions, recognizes the value of these physician-researcher partnerships in improving and extending care beyond a single community or region. The grant will allow our Cancer Institute to conduct more clinical trials and research studies to the benefit of people across the entire state.
Cancer care doesn’t stop at the county line. It’s imperative that health systems, universities, cancer-support communities and biotechnology companies work together to find solutions, as they do through our Institute for Translational Oncology Research.
While we are the only community grant site in South Carolina, other S.C. hospitals have partnered with out-of-state community grant sites or have received diversity/minority grants. This is great news for South Carolina, which results in more cancer patients getting better care.
Our clinical trials will focus on improving cancer prevention, cancer control, screening for early cancers and post-treatment surveillance, while cancer-care-delivery research will focus on quality of life and understanding the diverse and multi-level factors that affect access to and quality of care.
Transportation, technology, finances and pre-existing chronic diseases are all examples of factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. Our research aims to find new therapies and delivery approaches that improve access and outcomes for all patients, throughout South Carolina and surrounding states, not just in the Upstate.
In some cases, the breakthrough may be a new drug. In other cases — such as a recent trial at Greenville Health System for women with early breast cancer — what’s being tested is care delivery itself; women in the trial were sent a text message to remind them to take their pills at a specific time.
When it comes to our health, knowledge truly is power. By accelerating the transfer of knowledge gained from cancer clinical trials and cancer-care-delivery research into clinical practice, we have an opportunity to improve outcomes and ultimately save lives.
Federally funded grants are a big win for South Carolina. They provide additional resources to expand medical services and further game-changing health research. Examples at Greenville Health System include a study on the effects of exercise on cancer-related fatigue and a lung cancer clinical trial that compares effectiveness of targeted therapy versus combinations of standard therapy. (Another study by the USC School of Medicine Greenville and the hospital is using state-of-the-art, non-invasive techniques to study the effects of chemotherapy on survivors’ skeletal muscle health and cellular metabolic rate and how this ties into patient fatigue.) Meanwhile, Clemson University and MUSC researchers — working with our physicians — recently won an $11 million National Institutes of Health grant for their ongoing work in how lab-grown tissue can treat a variety of diseases.
Such cooperation — and the grants that derive from it — also are strong economic catalysts, growing intellectual capital as well as attracting additional financial support. According to Research! America, a national non-profit advocacy group, $2 million in new state business activity is generated for every $1 million that the National Institutes of Health invests.
For S.C. health systems and universities, working together is simply working smarter.
This blog previously ran as a guest column in The State newspaper on August 12, 2014.