Clinical Trials Program Gives Patients Access to Additional Treatment Options

Participating in innovative research normally associated with large educational facilities – right here in your community.

The fact that Hoag offers patients access to clinical trials surprises people. Few would mention local hospitals in the same breath as major research institutes. But Hoag’s commitment to patient-centered innovation has made clinical trials a natural fit.

Clinical trials provide patients with access to the most leading-edge treatment and diagnostic options available. These are sometimes life-saving drugs or equipment that are not yet on the market, but that will eventually become the “gold standard” of care.

Hoag currently has 74 open clinical trials in cancer, cardiology, women’s health, diabetes, neurology, orthopedics, radiology and wound care. And the list is growing. Because of Hoag’s investment, patients can obtain these treatments and services without driving outside the county or flying out of state.

“We want to have trials available to all of our patients, so that anyone who could benefit from the newest and latest offerings would be able to access them,” said hematologist-oncologist Louis Vandermolen, M.D. “This is unusual for hospitals that are not attached to major research facilities, but we have been working hard to provide these resources to our patients.”

Particularly unusual is Hoag’s participation in phase 1 trials through an alliance with USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, which are used to test the safety and efficacy of new cancer drugs and procedures. Hoag currently offers 18 phase 1 clinical trials, which are funded by philanthropy.

“These trials bring promising novel agents to patients whose cancers have become resistant to standard therapy, or novel combinations of approved and investigational drugs for patients who are earlier in treatment, said Diana Hanna, M.D., an oncologist who is providing oversight for Hoag’s phase 1 clinical trials. “These treatments have become increasingly targeted to an individual's tumor type and genomic profile, and are being integrated with immunotherapy as well.”

Not all of Hoag’s trials involve drugs. A unique Alzheimer’s treatment, for instance, is testing the effects of lifestyle changes on disease progression. And in pancreatic cancer, Hoag has developed a new early detection and research program that is using genetic testing to examine the genes of people who have a family history of pancreatic cancer to help identify who is at high risk for developing the disease. This could lead to early detection and successful treatment of a particularly fatal cancer that is often diagnosed in the end-stages of disease.

For trials that do involve drugs, Hoag’s program is also distinct in that trials are not just offered to the “sickest of the sick.”

In fact, Hoag’s 36 tumor boards meet regularly to discuss treatment plans across a spectrum of diseases, meaning that when Hoag physicians offer the option of participating in a clinical trial, it is not just to learn more about the disease, but also to help the individual patient. Hoag’s staff of 16 regulators and coordinators works closely with patients to help then succeed.

“We’ve created a culture of research here, and part of that is educating patients so they are part of the decision-making process,” Dr. Vandermolen said. “This gives them agency in their own care. Patients who participate in research are happier and do better.”