Clinical Research Options in California’s Central Valley: Bakersfield-based AIS Cancer Center Accreditations

Clinical Research Options in California’s Central Valley: Bakersfield-based AIS Cancer Center Accreditations

Adventist Health AIS Cancer Center received a new accreditation from the American College of Surgeons. Additionally, the program, located in Bakersfield California (southern end of the Central Valley), was recently named a Comprehensive Community Cancer Program—the only such center in Kern County to hold the prestigious accreditation. The opportunity to offer advanced clinical research as a care program to the dynamic and diverse population in the Bakersfield area grows as the ACS Commission on Cancer awarded the center three commendations for its work in clinical research, cancer registry education, and public reporting of outcomes.

Bakersfield, situated in Kern County, represents a strategic locale for health care programs as this part of California represents a key place in the future for the state’s middle class.

A Fascinating Place

Bakersfield, California, has a special place in the American consciousness, whether most are aware of it or not. With nearly 400,000 residents, the city is situated in Kern County, (population 900,000). This large California county spans the southern end of the heavily agriculture-dependent Central Valley. Covering 8.1K square miles, it represents a brilliantly diversified natural landscape from rich agricultural lands to dry scrubby, western mountain ranges rich in oil and natural gas to the magnificent southern slope of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range and into extreme desert areas in the Mojave Desert. 

Rough Patches and a Hub for a Bygone Western Era

Bakersfield has a rich history of those migrating to the far West of America to achieve independence, freedom, and an opportunity for not only meaningful work, but also wealth. It was the location contemplated in some of John Steinbeck’s most famous novels, such as in The Grapes of Wrath as the impoverished Scotch-Irish “Okies” made their perilous journey from Oklahoma and other locations back east to the fertile orchards and farms of the Golden State. Often, these poor migrants faced fear, prejudice, and suspicion and hence, weren’t treated well as Steinbeck would write. In In Dubious Battle, clashes between Okie migrants working in the fields and orchards and the corrupted big farm owners got out of hand—clashes in the massive labyrinth orchards in these parts of California were described in spooky detail.

Even infamous Oakland Hell’s Angels Chapter President Sonny Barger wrote that the Angels would pretty much go into any bar up and down California and “kick butt” except for Bakersfield, where the opposite happened—the outlaw one-percenters met their match in Bakersfield when they tried to take over the bars of “red-neck” oil workers from hills west of Bakersfield. And after the bar room brawls the country music, known as the Bakersfield Sound, would play on.

Changing Demographics and Boom Times Coming

Well, those days of yesteryear have been replaced, at least in Bakersfield and other emerging Central Valley cities, by rapid population growth, growing diversified economies, and an incredibly diverse population as boom times have arrived.  The coastal cities of California have become prohibitively expensive to pursue the American Dream and hence, those aspiring for a middle class to comfortable working-class existence can build a wonderful life in places such as Bakersfield—the city that represents possibly the future of California’s opportunity more so than San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego.

The Bakersfield Metropolitan Statistical Area includes a highly diversified population, including many underrepresented groups—the city itself is 51.4% Latino and nearly 8% African American. There are certainly pockets of poverty, and a few rough blocks still can exist here and there. But the booming economy and pervasive opportunity affords nearly all opportunities for engaged employment should they seek it. Health care access in California is good—except possibly many adjacent farmworkers who traditionally had less than optimal health care access. Despite growing economic prosperity, some demographic segments of the population within Bakersfield and broader Kern County can truly benefit from access to the best care, including advanced clinical trials. 

As the city itself is over 50% Latino (mostly Mexican heritage), it is well known that the statistics show that Latinos don’t participate in cancer-based clinical trials nearly as much as they could give, they face overall higher cancer rates. With more clinical research networks available thanks to AIS Cancer Center, growing participation in clinical trials for certain dangerous cancers, for example, could save lives. Kern County, including Bakersfield, can surely benefit from initiatives involving clinical research as a health care option. It could become an epicenter in this part of California for research-driven advanced health research options.

Who is the AIS Cancer Center?

Part of Adventist Health, Bakersfield, the AIS Cancer Center represents a provider with world-class cancer care right in Bakersfield. They pride themselves on providing complete, care involving:

· Highly trained oncology professionals

· Superior diagnostic capabilities

· Top-of-the-line treatment options

· In-depth support for patient symptoms and side effects

· Compassionate care

The AIS Cancer Center offers a range of services in a nationally-accredited cancer care facility. 

As reported by local news 23 ABC, this new accreditation only goes to providers with in-house services and perform clinical research and trials, diagnosing over 500 cases annually. The AIS Cancer Center has diagnosed more than 1,000 cancer cases establishing them as “experts in the field,” according to Adventist Health. With a focus on the “whole person” and social determinants of health, Sharlet Briggs, Adventist Health President commented, “This recognition shows that the innovative, whole-person care we deliver is a best practice in the field of oncology.” The AIS Cancer Center has cared for more than 15,000 cancer patients since its opening in 2013.

Clinical Research as a Care Option

AIS Cancer Center operates as part of several clinical trial networks and seeks to keep its patients updated and informed about clinical trials that may benefit its cancer patients.

Its primary access to clinical research is via the University of California, Davis Cancer Care Network. A unique opportunity for the residents of Kern County and Bakersfield, they are part of a unique collaboration of cancer service providers that link the insight of community cancer centers with the expertise of cutting-edge cancer researchers. The UC Davis Cancer Care Network facilitates the availability of advanced cancer clinical trials for community members.

Community Members

In addition to Bakersfield’s AIS Cancer Center, other community members that make up a clinical trials network (with research as care options) include:

· Mercy Cancer Center, Merced CA

· Rideout Cancer Center, Marysville CA

· Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center, Truckee, CA

Note TrialSite News has written a special on Tahoe Forest Cancer Center and the work of an investigator there in his effort to leverage telemedicine technology to help establish the research network in rural parts of California.

Overall clinical research in the Bakersfield area is anticipated to grow. Currently, there are 177 active clinical trials in the area, according to a recent TrialSite News search.

Who is Adventist Health?

A not-for-profit health care organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the health system called Adventist Health is headquartered in Roseville, California. By 2018 it had 19 hospitals in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State. This western-based system is not affiliated with Adventist HealthCare in Maryland or the Florida-based Advent Health. Adventist Health Bakersfield has served the residents of Kern County for over 100 years.

American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer

ACS Commission on Cancer is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival and quality of life for cancer patients through standard-setting, which promotes cancer prevention, research, education, and monitoring of comprehensive quality care. See the link for more details.

Call to Action: If you reside in the Bakersfield area, and you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with cancer, be sure to get an option from the AIS Cancer Center. For sponsors or CROs interested in expanding site locations, Kern County’s Bakersfield represents an important site location for clinical studies.