The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center received a $6.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to build a Clinical Research Center that will significantly improve access to experimental treatments for cancer patients in Hawaiʻi. The clinic will focus on early phase clinical trials and be the first of its kind in the state.

The Early Phase Cancer Clinical Research Center will be named Hoʻōla, Hawaiian for healing. It will provide access to phase 1 trials for cancer patients in Hawaiʻi so they do not have to travel to the continental U.S. for specialized treatments. Phase 1 trials represent the cutting edge of cancer treatments and are often considered when patients have a particularly challenging form of cancer or when standard treatments have been unsuccessful.

Render of U H Cancer Center interior

Interior render

The federal funds match the $6.5 million approved by the state Legislature this past session. The $13 million total will be used to construct the Clinical Research Center, in 36,000 square feet of existing shell space at the UH Cancer Center in Kakaʻako.

“We are extremely grateful to the state Legislature and the National Institutes of Health for recognizing the need of this program and the exceptional value it will provide for the people of Hawaiʻi,” said UH Cancer Center Director Randall Holcombe. “The center will be focused on finding new treatments for patients and providing them to our residents without the expense and difficulties of travel to another NCI-designated center on the mainland.”

A first for Hawaiʻi

Approximately 6,700 people are diagnosed with cancer each year in Hawaiʻi. The research center will serve an estimated 100 to 200 patients annually who would have otherwise had to travel out of state for treatment.

“I am so pleased to learn that the UH Cancer Center has received full funding to build the Early Phase Cancer Clinical Trials Center,” said state Sen. Breene Harimoto. “As the first facility of its kind in Hawaiʻi, the center will offer hope for Hawaiʻi residents battling advanced cancers by providing them with the opportunity to participate in early phase clinical trials without having to leave the state. This greatly reduces the financial, physical, and emotional hardships of having to travel to the mainland for treatment that may be their last hope.”

Render of U H Cancer Center lab interior

Interior render

The development of a program in Early Phase Cancer Clinical Trials, and recruitment of the faculty physicians, nurses and pharmacists, is a joint venture of the UH Cancer Center, the University of Hawaiʻi and clinical partners in the Hawaiʻi Cancer Consortium—Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, Kuakini Medical Center and the Queen’s Medical Center.

“Every patient seen in Hoʻōla will participate in a clinical research study, and therefore it will be wholly complementary and ‘value-added’ for cancer patients and oncology providers in the state.” said Holcombe. “It will be a statewide resource to enable advances in cancer treatment that are of particular importance to our diverse population here in Hawaiʻi.”

The research center will further expand the research capabilities of the university. The UH Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. The center’s mission is to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural and environmental characteristics of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. The center employs 300 faculty and staff, with another 200 affiliate members through the Hawaiʻi Cancer Consortium.

Render of U H Cancer Center interior

Interior render