Cutting-edge research driving cancer care at Dayton Physicians Network
By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
When facing a battle against cancer you want to be sure that you have the most effective and latest treatment options on your side. Many assume that this means traveling to well-known facilities and incurring multiple expensive and inconvenient overnight stays to take advantage of treatments based on new research or to participate in clinical trials, but this is not the case for those in the Dayton area.
“We offer patients innovative, cutting-edge research that many assume is only available at academic institutions,” says Josh Cox, director of pharmacy for Dayton Physicians Network. Dayton Physicians Network describes itself as “a multispecialty network that provides comprehensive cancer care and urologic care services” with specialties in medical oncology, radiation oncology, imaging and urology.
The network was founded in 2006, and, by combining three separate practices, aimed to provide “comprehensive centers, coordinated care and efficient operations, they could provide a valuable health care company unlike any other in the region,” says Robert E. Baird Jr., CEO, in a statement.
What was missing, however, was the research arm that drives the treatments available.
“We have six comprehensive cancer centers and have been involved in cooperative trials but we were missing the cutting-edge research,” Cox says. “We’ve had a lot of success building our (research) program from the ground up.”
The research taking place is gaining worldwide attention. “We have several (clinical) trials open,” says Sue Nortman, clinical research coordinator. One of the most interesting is a first-line hepatocellular treatment trial that is testing an investigational immunotherapy product to be used against liver cancer. Because it involves immunotherapy instead of chemotherapy it potentially avoids the toxicity of traditional chemotherapy. Immunotherapy harnesses the power of the patient’s own immune system to battle cancer, either by boosting the immune response or suppressing it in a targeted way.
Dayton Physicians Network is the first in the world to open the hepatocellular trial, perhaps a surprising fact for some. “Many would not assume Dayton is the first in the world,” Cox says. Nortman agrees, and she points to a variety of other trials, including treatment trials, observational trials and a variety of efforts to target breast, gastric, liver and prostate cancers, with future studies targeting lung cancer. “We also have a biomarker study (underway),” says Nortman, adding that one prostate cancer study is “very promising” in its use of nuclear medicine.
“This is where all the new treatments come from,” Nortman says. She acknowledges that the road to bringing a new treatment to market can be a long one, averaging 12 to 15 years to make a new treatment available. However, she relishes the satisfaction of being a part of this process. Nortman recollects working in a research position before she came to Dayton Physicians Network and seeing a number of treatments begin the process; years later, some of those treatments had become the standard of care.
This focus on research brings hope to many cancer patients who dread the side effects that can come from treatments as they may be familiar with them. “Today, cancer treatments are not nearly as toxic,” she says.
Cancer treatments have become much more targeted, hitting the cancer cells and doing a better job of leaving healthy tissue alone. This lessens side effects and makes the treatments much more manageable than ever before.
For example, Dayton Physicians Network now offers a treatment for prostate cancer that helps protect sensitive tissue and organs during radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Called SpaceOAR®, the treatment introduces a temporary gel spacer between the prostate and the rectum, pushing the rectum away from the beam of radiation, reducing the chances for damage and lessening the chances of rectal, urinary and sexual side effects.
The benefits of a strong research program are many. The first is obvious: “folks don’t have to travel so far (to participate in a trial)” Nortman says. This convenience means that more people in the Dayton area may have the ability to participate in these investigational trials, giving them a shot at trying a new treatment before it comes to market and/or hopefully helping to increase the body of knowledge of cancer care for all.
However, it is the proactive, forward-looking approach of research that permeates the culture at Dayton Physicians Network. “Research shows how our philosophy is applied to all of our practice,” Cox says. This includes doing patient advocacy work in the nation’s capital.
Additionally, Dayton Physicians Network anticipates the needs of its patients, offering same-day acute care services that help with sudden problems that arise during treatment, keeping patients out of the emergency room and working with their own health care team.
At Dayton Physicians Network the focus is always on improving life for the patient. By looking forward to future treatments and ways to improve access and convenience, DPN is becoming a national leader in cancer care and research, close to home.
As of this writing, Dayton Physicians Network is recruiting for clinical trials in:
• Advanced liver cancer
• Advanced triple negative breast cancer
• Advanced prostate cancer
• Advanced urothelial cancer
• Advanced renal cell cancer
• Advanced HER2 positive breast cancer
• Advanced gastric/gastro-esophageal junction cancer
• Prostate cancer with cardiovascular disease
• Breast cancer – current or historical
• Biomarker study
More information can be found at daytonphysicians.com/research-and-clinical-trials/.