Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute Awarded Funding to Expand Cancer Program
The National Cancer Institute has awarded $3.5 million in funding to the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute (MMCCI). MMCCI is one of 14 newly funded hospital-based community cancer centers, and the only one in Maine, to be added to the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP) network. Chosen centers offer expanded research opportunities, leading edge multidisciplinary care and serve medically underserved populations, including rural communities. Joining MMCCI in this effort will be MaineHealth, a not-for-profit family of leading high-quality providers and other healthcare organizations, and the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine, the largest private oncology practice in northern New England.
The principal use of the funds will be to develop new and expanded programs to increase outreach to the underinsured, underrepresented and disadvantaged populations in Maine for the continuum of cancer care. This includes providing a broader range of high-quality clinical trials to outreach clinics, increasing the procurement of biological samples for research, linking with national computer networks that support research, expanding survivorship and palliative care programs and supporting patient advocacy. All of these efforts are designed to increase the availability and quality of cancer care provided within the region.
Dr. Susan Miesfeldt and Dr. Nananda Col will serve as co-lead investigators for the program. Dr. Jacquelyn Hedlund will serve as Physician Director. Dr. Miesfeldt is the Medical Director for the Cancer Risk and Prevention Program at Maine Medical Center and is a Board certified, practicing Medical Oncologist. She has an extensive background in clinical oncology, cancer genetics and improving access to cancer prevention and early detection services in disparate populations. Dr. Nananda Col serves as Director for the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and as Chief of the Division of Health Services Research. She is an internist and a nationally recognized health services investigator and women's health researcher. Dr. Hedlund is a practicing Board certified Hematologist at the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and serves as the Medical Director of Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute.
"As a leader in cancer care in Maine, we at MMCCI understand the impact clinical research has on improving patients' outcomes," says Dr. Miesfeldt, who will serve as co-lead investigator. "The NCCCP funding allows additional opportunities to provide the best care for our patients and their families. Our goal is to significantly increase the number of patients who participate in cancer treatment trials. The ability to coordinate our activities with the National Cancer Institute's research network will facilitate research initiatives, allow us to share scientific knowledge about cancer care quality, and improve practices at MMCCI."
Currently, there are more than 250 clinical trials within Maine Medical Center providing state-of-the-art care to approximately 3,000 patients. Many of these clinical trials are cancer-related. In fact, MMC is the state's leader in patient accruals to cancer clinical trials, with almost 250 new patients enrolling in various studies each year and taking place at Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and other affiliated medical practices. This rate has earned MMCCI Commendation from the Commission on Cancer in the area of clinical trial accrual for the past 5 years.
In Maine, cancer accounts for a quarter of total deaths each year. Over 60 percent of the state's 1.3 million residents live in rural areas. One of the major objectives of this initiative it to enhance access to effective cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment services in an equitable fashion. Access issues are particularly evident among racial/ethnic minorities, people of lower socioeconomic status, residents of rural areas, and members of other underserved populations.
NCCCP is using $40 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand its number of community hospital-based sites from 16 to 30. NCCCP is designed to create new research opportunities across the cancer continuum from screening and treatment to follow-up care, with an emphasis on minority and underserved populations. Expanding the NCCCP network will provide access to more patients in community cancer centers to support these research efforts.