Florida’s Lee Health Embraces Cutting-Edge Clinical Research as a Care Option

Florida’s Lee Health Embraces Cutting-Edge Clinical Research as a Care Options

Lee Health, a regional health care provider in southwest Florida, has been serving the community for over 100 years. And their Regional Cancer Center represents the forefront of the clinical research as a care option when it comes to cancer. Dr. Mark Bloomston, a surgical oncologist on staff, recently discussed their commitment to clinical trials as a critical way to not only treat pancreatic cancer patients but to strive for the goal to ultimately cure cancer. They are committed to work with patients no curable in the traditional sense and embrace cutting-edge approaches to save lives.

Most recently, Dr. Mark Bloomston, of Lee Health’s Regional Cancer Center was interviewed by NBC 2 in Florida. Trained as a surgical oncologist, he recently commented  on their mission: “What we are trying to do is to take patients who are not curable in the traditional sense, because their tumor cannot be removed, and move them toward surgery.” Consequently, the provider has sought out a diverse and targeted array of clinical trials to address patient needs.

Regional Cancer Center

Lee Health’s Regional Cancer Center represents a unique partnership between Lee Health and its private physician group partners—21st Century Oncology and Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute. This mission-driven, integrated model offers a comprehensive and diverse array of cancer care treatment options—all in one center. These treatment options include the latest cancer treatment advances and cutting-edge cancer-beating technologies embodied by select clinical trials. They have been participating in oncology clinical trials for nearly 20 years. With a commitment to the highest ethical conduct and scientific integrity, its professionals seek out advanced studies that show potential to improve patient care and ultimately save patient lives. Alina Ward oversee clinical trials at the center.

Pancreatic Cancer: Deadly

Regional Cancer Center treats an array of cancers including pancreatic cancer. The seventh leading cause of deaths worldwide, 56,770 new cases are projected for this year alone in America. With the five-year survival rate at only 9.3%, an estimated 45,750 deaths will occur this year alone. Nearly 3,500 pancreatic deaths are projected for 2019. and according to the NBC 2 report Florida has the highest incidence of pancreatic cancer.

Advanced Gene Therapy

Dr. Bloomston noted to NBC 2 that a new clinical trial there pushed the envelop using a form of the herpes virus, as an advanced cancer killer—essentially they are taking a form of the Herpes virus and injecting it directly into the tumor while they treat the patient with anti-herpes medication. The goal: kill the virus and the cancer cells.

According to Dr. Bloomston, the goal of this clinical trial is to address tumors that essentially hide from the immune system noting, “Now, once we’ve injected the virus and go back and look under the microscope, now we see those immune cells go back into the tumor where they were otherwise hidden before.”

Study Description

TrialSite News reviewed published studies involving Lee Health. The Phase II pancreatic cancer trial is sponsored by Advantagene, Inc. in collaboration with Ohio State University. The sponsors’ and investigators seek to evaluate Gene Mediated Cytotoxic Immunotherapy (GMCI™) in combination with standard of care chemoradiation and surgery for borderline resectable and unresectable locally advanced pancreatic cancer in patients who have completed induction chemotherapy.

As reported in Clinicaltrials.gov, GMCI is utilized to kill tumor cells and create an immune stimulatory environment in the tumor. Killing tumor cells in an immune stimulatory environment induces the body’s immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells. Underlying this study are data evidencing GMCI’s synergy with radiation and surgery with no added toxicity. 

The operating hypothesis of this study: that GMCI is added to standard of care for chemoradiation and surgery after completion of induction chemotherapy will be safe and improve the clinical outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.

The sponsors’ target 38 patients for this study which initiated in 2015 and runs till December 2021.

Research Centers

In addition to Lee Health/Regional Cancer Center, this study is being conducted at Ohio State University (a collaborator with the sponsor) and Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion Salvador Zubiran in Mexico.

Advantagene, Inc.

Advantagene, (d.b.a. Candel Therapeutics) is a Boston-area privately help biopharmaceutical company. At the forefront of their efforts is their proprietary Gene Mediated Cytotoxic Immunotherapy™ (GMCI™), a platform technology designated to stimulate a patient’s immune system to naturally fight against their cancer. It is based on a relatively low cost and readily available “off-the-shelf” viral vector product (aglatimagene besadenovec: (AdVtk) that generates patient specific anti-tumor immune response in-vivo. With hundreds of patients dosed over more than a decade, Advantagene reports that its safety profile is established and lacks the side effects often associated with cancer therapies.

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Mark Bloomston 

Call to Action: If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, consider visiting the Regional Cancer Center. For interest in clinical trials, reach out to Alina Ward.