University of Hawaii Collaborates With Hawaii Medical Service Association For First-Of-Its-Kind Trial

Apr 14, 2019 | Blood Test, Breast Cancer, Imaging Tools, Quality of LIfe, University of Hawaii


The University of Hawaii Cancer Center announced a collaboration with Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) to conduct a first-of-its-kind clinical trial that could lead to less anxiety for patients with metastatic breast cancer, improved quality of life for patients and their families and lower costs for the community. Jessica Rhee, UH Cancer Center clinical trials office medical director reports “The optimal timing and method for disease monitoring of patients with metastatic breast cancer are unclear. However it is known that more intensive monitoring is not associated with improved survival.” Ms. Rhee also noted that over testing can lead to worse quality of life and increased anxiety not to mention depression and greater costs.

The UH clinical trial has been designed to determine whether tumor marker blood tests every six weeks at routine check-ups can be used to monitor disease status and determine if and when imaging studies (CT Scan, PET/CT scan) are needed. Presently, in addition to blood tests, imaging scans are administered at least every three months to monitor treatment for patients with hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer.

The study design seeks to compare the survival outcome of both groups as well as patient-reported anxiety, patient quality of life and cost of care.  What if blood tests would suffice? After all, they are associated with fewer complications, are less time consuming, generate less anxiety and cost less.

Hawaii represents one of the most diverse communities in the United States. In fact, it maintains the largest non-white majority population. Clinical research participation historically is dominated by white Americans. The ongoing research project demands more ethnic and minority participation. The State of Hawaii represents an incredibly important incubator for this purpose. With its diverse Asian & Pacific Islander population, UH finds an imperative to find ways to enroll more diverse patients in the oncology trial effort.  Moreover, economic class is another hinderance to participation.  Of course in American often economics and ethnicity may correlate to tougher conditions.  In Hawaii, the local health plans typically only cover body imaging scans for breast cancer tracking and not blood tests. These tests may be more expensive and psychologically imposing. The UH team seeks to find a comparable and less imposing—and more economical—means of monitoring the ongoing treatment.

TrialSite News supports this innovative group in Hawaii and hopes that other researchers find this research. We provide the lead UH contacts below.

Lead Research/Investigator

Jessica Rhee, UH Cancer Center Clinical Trial Office Director

Randall Holcombe, UH Cancer Center Director


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