audience shot at event
The UH Cancer Center honored about 150 clinical trial participants at an event on April 6, 2019.

The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center hosted its 4th annual Helping Enhance Research in Oncology (HERO) appreciation event to honor more than 150 cancer clinical trial participants on April 6, 2019.

“I suffer from survivor’s guilt because I was first diagnosed in 2004. I should have died, but thanks to the clinical trials and a great oncologist I am still here, so to see other people who have survived as well is just so uplifting,” said Karen Koles, clinical trial participant.

The UH Cancer Center coordinates about 150 active national clinical trials of new treatments and technologies for adults and children and is currently monitoring about 1,000 participants and enrolling more than 300 new clinical trial participants annually.

UH Cancer Center coordinates clinical trials through a robust network on Oʻahu including the Hawaiʻi Cancer Consortium with oversight of trials at The Queen’s Health Systems, HawaiʻiPacific Health hospitals, Kuakini Health System and numerous private practitioners statewide.

Cancer clinical trials offer the highest level of care and better outcomes for cancer patients. The studies undergo rigorous scientific review and provide access to novel treatments. Nationally, about 70–75 percent of children with cancer are treated on clinical trials compared to only about 2–3 percent of adults. The high participation rate of children has contributed to their high cure rates.

UH Cancer Center is focused on increasing accruals to clinical trials in Hawaiʻi through its 20BY25 educational statewide campaign dedicated to the initiative to achieve enrollment to cancer clinical trials of 20 percent of all individuals with newly diagnosed and relapsed cancers each year by 2025. If Hawaiʻi achieves this goal, it will be the only state in the U.S. to achieve this high proportion of enrollment to clinical trials statewide.

A high proportion of enrollment on trials as well as including Hawaiʻi’s diverse multiethnic population in the trials is important for creating better treatments. Most clinical trial participants nationwide are white. The results of those studies may not apply to Hawaiʻi’s population.

“Without a diversity of patients participating in trials, no knowledge is obtained about the effectiveness and side effects in non-white populations. This is why it is even more significant that cancer patients in Hawaiʻi participate in clinical trials so the knowledge that is gained can be applied to all ethnic groups,” said Jessica Rhee, medical director, UH Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office.

—By Nana Ohkawa