OptumCare® Cancer Care has opened up its Las Vegas cancer research center to support and conduct cancer-focused clinical trials in the Las Vegas, Nevada area. With a mission to eradicate cancer through advancing new therapies, obtainable objectives such as extending survival for those with cancer in Las Vegas present new opportunity for clinical research as a care option in Southern Nevada. With this new 55,000 square foot treatment center, patients have a broad range of cancer care options, including advanced clinical trials.
OptumCare Cancer Care Enters Las Vegas Phases Approach
OptumCare Cancer Care offers a patient-centered approach to cancer patients focusing on the whole person striving to go beyond conventional medical methods. The new center opened in phases; the first being back in December 2018 with the launch of the oncology practice.
Now in phase two of the development brings what is planned to be a sophisticated clinical research operation to the region. This effort includes the formation of a clinical trials action committee, which includes a clinical trials office, finance department and legal services.
Gearing up to work with CROs & Pharma
The team, just settling in, is actively engaged in developing the infrastructure and procedures for a billing department, reports Nevada Business. This new unit will be involved with all three clinical trials phases to contribute to the mission to discover new protocols that can improve overall patient survival and improve quality of life with an emphasis on Las Vegas.
The Clinical Trials Team
The new Las Vegas-based core clinical trials team includes two new health care professionals: Christine Martinez, MS, CCRC a clinical research coordinator and Nicole Stephens, PhD, research regulatory coordinator. At the helm of the research office, Dr. K. Saad Jahangir, MD (principal investigator), is the director of OptumCare Cancer Care research in Las Vegas; research operations are directed by William Jordan, MBA, MHA; and pharmacy services are managed by Amy Hale, PharmD, BCPS, RN.
Las Vegas Metro Research Market
With 2.2 million people in the region, Las Vegas has come into its own as a significant urban area in the Southwestern United States. For decades, it was thought of as one of the fastest growing cities in America. Although traditionally dependent on tourism, entertainment and gaming, the city has grown—albeit in bursts followed by real estate busts—and continues to develop a diversified economy with tight ties to its neighbor—California. Golden State residents move to Nevada in droves—whether it be to escape higher taxes at retirement age to capitalizing on more affordable housing in pursuit of home ownership and a higher quality of life—economically speaking.
A highly diversified population, the city represents a multicultural reality with Latinos representing nearly a third of the population; African Americans at 11% and Asians at about 6% of the total population. Hard-working and bustling, Las Vegas in many ways in an unfolding social laboratory of American life.
A search of ClinicalTrials.gov reveals 917 clinical studies revealing that compared to other areas, the population could support more clinical research (for example Salt Lake City to the north has 1,641 active trials with a smaller population). 569 of the totals are industry-sponsored studies while over 600 are cancer focused. Centers such as University of Nevada Las Vegas and the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health represent hubs of trial activity within the region.
Anchoring research commercially are big players such as CRO PPD, which has a notable presence in Las Vegas.
The Population Grew Faster than the Medical Sector could Keep up with
Salt Lake City residents like to boast that at least historically, many Nevada residents would need to travel up to the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah for world class care. There is some precedent that Nevada historically didn’t rank high nationally in health care ranking. In fact, as recent as 2018 the Silver State ranked 50th according to a review of more than 100 population level and patient-level measures published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Although, Nevada ranked higher in certain areas from chronic disease care, diabetes and heart failure and stroke care. The city finally opened a medical school at UNLV and the healthcare sector is now finally catching up to the rapid population growth. It is accepted knowledge that Las Vegas is playing “catch up” on the healthcare front but that it is a place representing a spirit of growth, openness, and flexibility as the growing population has many healthcare demands.
Accessibility & Need for Clinical Research as Care Options
Although the Las Vegas metro region is prosperous and growing like many regions in America, the divisions between economic strata is apparent. The region does represent a place where a traditionally “working class” income can lead to home ownership and a middle-class lifestyle—the American Dream. However, with a dynamic small business sector even many employed may not carry health insurance. Hence, when it comes to health care and research, sizable “underrepresented” segments of the population need greater care access.
The region’s health accessibility dramatically approved with the ACA as state-wide Nevada saw a drop in uninsured to 30% from 2009 to 2017. Over 20% of the entire state population is covered by Medicaid and this figure is anticipated higher in Las Vegas city. However, even by late 2019, about 400,000 statewide lacked health insurance covererage—many of these folks reside in Las Vegas (Las Vegas metro represents about 75% of the total state population). Moreover, there are many struggles in the city with a poverty rate of 16.2%.
Cancer rates are relatively high with an estimated 16.5 thousand new cancer cases in the state and an estimated 5.4 thousand deaths per year. Lung cancer rates are higher as incidents of smoking and other factors may be higher proportionately in the city.
Social determinants of health are alive and thriving in the region, especially among economically struggling populations. Conditions such as Type 2 diabetes are prominent—statewide, 12.4% of the adult population in Nevada is diagnosed with the disease, and it is reported that pre-diabetes and diabetes hit the state with a bill of $2.4 billion a year. Emerging whole person care models for “underrepresented” populations should factor in appropriate research options where relevant and beneficial.
Looking Up in Las Vegas
Las Vegas has been for decades one of America’s fastest growing urban areas. New, open and bustling, the population embraces growth and the entrepreneurial spirit. Healthcare infrastructure lagged behind rapid population growth but the sector is now catching up. With the first major medical school set up, a major university and growing health provider presence, the health sector there is now on the map. A teeming population includes sizable underrepresented demographics in needs of care options. Clinical research represents a vital option. Hence, many Las Vegas-area residents could benefit from a care coordination scheme that identifies for those underinsured or perhaps insured via the government (e.g. Medicaid) the optimal care management program, including participation in research if it either addressed a direct condition faced by an individual or if the research offers preventive care.
Enter OptumCare Cancer Care: Part of a Corporate Giant
The entrance of OptumCare Cancer Care, with a 55,000 square foot facility, represents the imminent growth of the healthcare sector in the city’s Medical District. The new Las Vegas-based cancer care center and oncology-focused clinical investigational site is part of the larger corporation OptumCare. A massive organization with presence across the nation, the provider focuses on becoming a “transformational force in the delivery of health care” by 1) integrating high-quality servicers across the ambulatory care continuum; 2) introducing local care backed by the strength of a national, integrated organization; and 3) emphasize “value-based care” scaling the most effective evidence-based medicine.
OptumCare is actually part of a business unit that is ultimately owned by one of the largest payers in the United States—UnitedHealth Group, hence their underlying theme centers on seamless, integrated, value-based care.
Dr. K. Saad Jahangir, MD, Principal Investigator
Call to Action: Do you live in the Las Vegas area and have a loved one struggling with cancer? Consider the OptumCare Cancer Care center. For those CROs and industry sponsors seeking to expand clinical research sites in Nevada, this new center could be of interest.