Clinical Trials & Research
Clinicians and academic researchers in the Sentara Cancer Network partner with Virginia Oncology Associates, Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Mason University and other national and local healthcare organizations to conduct research that elevates patient care.
As a leading contributor to national research, we’re committed to participating in promising clinical trials that make new first-line therapies available to patients right now. Our team also participates in research that may lead to better options for prevention, diagnosis and treatment in the future. One constant goal is to improve our patients’ quality of life.
In 2017, several research efforts focused on finding more conservative, effective ways to treat patients with less risk of side effects. Studies also focused on preventing cancer recurrence and enhancing post-treatment quality of life. Our research efforts are diverse and include:
Conservative Treatments for Breast Cancer
A clinical trial (National Cancer Institute Trial “Comparison of Axillary Lymph Node Dissection With Axillary Radiation for Patients With Node-Positive Breast Cancer Treated With Chemotherapy” A011202) is underway to determine whether women with node-positive breast cancer can forego axillary lymph node dissection during surgery and receive only radiation. This conservative approach would reduce the occurrence of painful lymphedema and help patients return to daily activities faster.
Women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a noninvasive breast cancer, typically get some form of treatment, such as a lumpectomy or radiation. The Comparison of Operative to Monitoring and Endocrine Therapy (COMET) trial is testing an active surveillance approach similar to what doctors use to closely monitor prostate cancer in men. Breast specialists aggressively watch for signs of change, initiating treatment only when absolutely necessary.
Preventing Breast Cancer Recurrence
The National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) study explores whether weight loss can reduce cancer recurrence and improve overall survival and quality of life. The ABC trial examines the daily use of aspirin as an adjuvant therapy to prevent cancer recurrence in women with node-positive breast cancer. New treatments for brain cancer Sentara is participating in two research studies focused on treatments for glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. The METIS trial tests the efficacy of a glioblastoma treatment device called Optune® on patients whose non-small cell lung cancer has metastasized to the brain. The device attaches to the scalp and emits low-intensity electrical fields, called tumor treating fields, to stop the division of cancer cells or destroy them.
In the Toca 5 trial, patients with glioblastoma receive an injection of a medication called Toca 511 directly into the resected cavity after a tumor is removed. The medication binds itself to remaining cancer cells in the brain. Patients then take an oral pill called Toca FC. The oral medication combines with the injected medication to kill off cancerous cells.
Lung Cancer Research
In 2017, we began enrolling patients with non-small cell lung cancer into the Adjuvant Lung Cancer Enrichment Marker Identification and Sequencing Trial (ALCHEMIST). The study looks for genetic markers for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangements to help determine if a patient will benefit from targeted therapy. Sentara researchers also participated in a study called “Reducing surgical complications in newly diagnosed lung cancer patients who smoke.”