Research Month - Our History of Innovation
New England Cancer Specialists has a long and rich experience of participating in oncology clinical trials here in Maine. The research program began in 1982 when NECS, then known as the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine, began participating in grant funded research studies. Not long after, in 1988, NECS participated in our first National Cancer Institute (NCI) cooperative group study, with one of the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine’s first physicians, Dr. Delvin Case, as the principal investigator. The NCI cooperative group studies allowed NECS to coordinate our research efforts together with many investigators from hospitals and academic research centers throughout the United States and around the world.
Since its inception in those early days the research program has continued to expand as the practice has embraced clinical trials participation as a core mission in serving the residents of Maine. All of our physicians across all of our clinic sites participate in our clinical trial program, offering the latest in emerging oncology treatments to our patients. To date, the practice has enrolled over a 1,000 patients and participated in over 450 oncology clinical trials. We have developed long standing research relationships over the past 30 years, and have cultivated strong partnerships with the National Cancer Institute, regional academic institutions such the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Tufts Cancer Center, oncology focused research foundations and clinical trials networks, as well as important Industry Sponsors such as Roche, Merck, and Pfizer. All of these relationships have allowed us to offer our oncology patients a robust portfolio of innovative trials, including studies in the evolving fields of Precision Medicine and Immunoncology.
It takes a dedicated and motivated research team to offer all of these trials to our patients. The NECS Medical Director of Research, Christian Thomas M.D., Research Director, Patrick McAlary, MSN, CCRP, and a staff of 7 full time regulatory and research coordinators work diligently to ensure we have the right trial to offer the right patient at the right time across all of our NECS clinics.
Research Team members, pictured left to right: Lindsay St. Louis, Linda Reinholdtsen, Patrick McAlary, Shanna Lovelace, Charlotte Rice, Jade Langevin. Not pictured: Vicki Cray, Patricia Collins, Dr. Christian Thomas.
As we look to the future of oncology, we see that the personalized medicine is a bright star on the horizon. The concept of a targeted treatment for each patient’s individual and unique genomic profile is fast becoming a reality. The practice has long been interested in learning more about the molecular genetics of cancer and the development of targeted therapies to fight cancer. We understand that genomics testing will have everlasting impact on cancer diagnoses and new and evolving treatments. NECS was an early adopter in this emerging field and developed our first genetic counselor program in the late nineties, bringing in a PhD genetics expert to work to educate the physicians and staff about the molecular biology of cancer. NECS later expanded the genetics program for our patients, providing a physician for genetic consulting.
Jessica Cary presently leads our genetics program, and provides counseling services in each New England Cancer Specialists clinic. She works in concert with the treatment team to help provider and patient decipher the constantly evolving molecular medicine testing we offer. Christian Thomas, M.D. is the New England Cancer Specialists principal investigator leading our practice in an innovative and exciting state-wide molecular medicine testing collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory, which we will talk more about next week as our celebration of clinical research continues.