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New Ulm Medical Center

Virginia Piper Cancer Institute – New Ulm offers clinical trials

In the fight against cancer, patients of Virginia Piper Cancer Institute – New Ulm now have another path to recovery.

New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) became an affiliate of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute (VPCI) in November 2011. This means VPCI – New Ulm patients can now access the latest advances in cancer therapy. With the new partnership, New Ulm patients can reap the benefits of cancer research by taking part in clinical trials such as those offered in the Twin Cities and around the country.

VPCI – New Ulm is one of 21 medical facilities in Minnesota affiliated with MM CCOP (Metro Minnesota Community Clinical Oncology Program) to offer cancer patients the chance to participate in cancer clinical trials, said Lorna Holmberg, RN, VPCI – New Ulm’s oncology manager and clinical research nurse.

"By being part of MMCCOP and VPCI, we now have access to a lot of the programs from the metro area that people wouldn't normally have available in more rural areas," Holmberg said. "It provides people in our community access to the newest therapies. It reduces their need to travel to other institutions outside the community to receive care."

New partnership brings new options

Holmberg said the center began recruiting patients in July for the cancer clinical trials.

The clinical trials at VPCI – New Ulm offer using the current standard of care for a cancer diagnosis and combining it with new research, information or medicines, Holmberg said. The patient's physician and the research team evaluates if the new combination better controls the cancer, lessens the side effects of cancer therapy or improves a patient's quality of life.

"The purpose of clinical trials at New Ulm is to allow people to participate who normally wouldn't get to," Holmberg said. "Otherwise, these trials would never get out to people in smaller communities. This means patients can get access to the potential of new research."

Holmberg oversees the cancer clinical trials at VPCI – New Ulm. Holmberg and VPCI - New Ulm Oncologist Ettore Piroso, MD review patients' medical records to see if they meet the clinical trial criteria. The doctor then suggests the option to eligible cancer patients. Holmberg briefs the patient on a trial's risks and benefits. The final decision is solely up to the patient.

A patient can stop participating in a clinical trial at any time. Also, a patient's doctor will consider stopping treatment if the risks of a clinical trial begin to outweigh the benefits.

"I'll be involved every step of the way with patients," Holmberg said.

Holmberg said she expects to enroll between five and 15 cancer patients in cancer clinical trials every year.

She noted that taking part in a clinical trial offers patients more than just access to the newest cancer treatment options. It also means a patient can help contribute to the future of cancer care.

"Any advances in prevention and treatment of cancer depend on the information that's gained from well-conducted clinical trials," she said. "These trials are essential to finding answers to many of the questions we have about preventing and treating cancer."