For her achievements in expanding the role of Advanced Practice Providers (APPs)—such as nurse practitioners and physicians assistants—who care for patients in cancer clinical trials, University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center Assistant Researcher Christa Braun-Inglis has earned the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Director’s Award. She was one of 15 from the NCI and NCI-sponsored centers who garnered this national recognition.
Oncology APPs have emerged as a pivotal force in cancer care, making invaluable contributions that benefit patients and advance medical science. APPs have an in-depth knowledge of patients’ symptoms and procedures, however, until a few years ago, they were limited to monitoring patient treatments and unable to enroll them in clinical trials.
In 2020, Braun-Inglis led a nationwide survey of APPs that revealed systemic barriers to clinical trials faced by these professionals encompassing policies, role integration and lack of training on trial processes.
“Expanding the roles of APPs in clinical trials allows for greater access for cancer patients to enroll into clinical trials,” said Braun-Inglis. “The APPs are often a constant provider in the clinic, especially at rural sites, where an oncology APP may be a patient’s primary oncology provider.”
Through the efforts of Braun-Inglis and her team in Hawaiʻi, NCI reshaped their policies in September 2021, empowering APPs to fully exercise their credentials and enroll patients in supportive care trials, such as those addressing nausea, vomiting, financial navigation and survivorship. APPs also have the authority to prescribe medications, significantly streamlining the process and expediting enrollment to clinical trials.
“We have seen quite an increase in APP participation in NCI-sponsored trials both locally and nationally since these changes were made,” said Braun-Inglis. “I am so grateful to see oncology APPs’ increased participation as I know this will lead to better quality of life for our cancer patients.”
Since the update in NCI policies, 10 APPs in Hawaiʻi, including Braun-Inglis, have successfully adopted these changes in their work. She is currently leading national efforts to integrate the advanced practice provider working groups and task forces by developing initiatives, resources and opportunities through a five-year grant supported by The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research, part of the SWOG Cancer Research Network (originally called the Southwest Cancer Chemotherapy Study Group).