GHS Cancer Institute receives $6.7 million grant from NIH

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Greenville Health System’s Cancer Institute has been awarded $6.7 million to conduct clinical trials and research studies aimed at improving patient outcomes and reducing health disparities. GHS is the only community-based site in S.C. to receive the award.

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,” said Dr. Larry Gluck, medical director of the GHS Cancer Institute. “Through our research, we hope to find new therapies and delivery approaches that improve access and outcomes for all patients.”

The money comes from the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), part of the National Institutes of Health. GHS is one of only 34 programs in the nation to receive a NCORP community-site grant. Twelve minority/underserved sites were also funded nationwide.

Dr. Gluck made the announcement Friday, saying the grant is the largest in the health system’s history.

“This grant is an affirmation and recognition of our ongoing efforts to find and develop innovative ways to improve all aspects of cancer care delivery,” said Dr. Gluck. “It’s also a vote of confidence in our ability to take research to the next level. GHS is among the best in the nation when it comes to cancer research, and the work that we do here will positively impact the lives of cancer patients in our community and beyond.”

NCORP is a national network of investigators, cancer care providers, academic institutions and other organizations whose goal is to improve patient outcomes and reduce cancer disparities through multi-state clinical trials and research studies. NCORP grants are awarded to top institutions that have a demonstrated track record of meeting or exceeding study goals and a premier level of physician leadership and commitment to the communities they serve.

GHS has participated in NCI-sponsored research since 1988. In 1995, GHS was awarded a NCI Community Clinical Oncology Program grant to conduct national cancer prevention and treatment clinical trials for people at risk for developing cancer or diagnosed with cancer. 

As part of its reorganization, the NCI is replacing the Community Clinical Oncology Program with NCORP, but it intends to build on the initial program’s success and expand it to include cancer care delivery research focused on understanding the diverse and multi-level factors that affect access to and quality of care.

NCORP will also emphasize the importance of including minority and other underserved patient populations in clinical research, posing research questions that address health disparities in many aspects of cancer control and cancer care.

GHS’ annual Minority Health Summit, which focuses on educating and empowering the minority community to take charge of their health, was cited by the NCI as a strong method for helping achieve this goal.

“When it comes to our health, knowledge truly is power,” said Dr. Jeffrey Giguere, a GHS medical oncologist and principal investigator on GHS’ NCORP grant. “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.”  

Tim Bright, a 31-year-old Greenville resident who was diagnosed in 2010 with stage 3 colon cancer that later metastasized to his lungs, knows firsthand the important role clinical trials and research play in cancer care delivery. He himself was the recipient of a cancer drug that had just completed Phase III clinical trials thanks to GHS’ Institute for Translational Oncology Research (ITOR).

“As any cancer patient will tell you, the journey is not easy. There have been a lot of ups and downs and highs and lows,” said Bright. “What gives me hope, though, is my team at the GHS Cancer Institute and ITOR. ITOR has helped extend and improve my quality of life. As much as I want them to find a cure for my cancer, I want others to have the same opportunity, which is why this NCORP grant is meaningful to me and to our community. It’s hope for the future – hope that we find a cure for all types of cancers.”

NCORP has been under development at the NCI for over a year. The concept was approved by the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors one year ago and the Funding Opportunity Announcements for NCORP sites and research bases was released in November 2013. Applications were reviewed by expert panels assembled by the NCI and then evaluated by NCI program staff that made the final funding decisions. The program will receive $93 million a year for five years from the federal government, and $40.3 million will be allocated annually to community sites across the nation. GHS will receive $6.7 million over five years.