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U-M CCC - Progress Newsletter Spring 2002 Online

Unprecedented Access to Cancer Clinical Trials Forged

While early detection offers the best opportunity to cure cancers, many Michigan citizens with advanced stages of cancer would have benefited from being part of an advanced clinical trial for treatment.

In an innovative move to open access for Michigan cancer patients to clinical trials, a newly formed coalition – including the University of Michigan Cancer Center, other cancer centers and hospitals, patient advocate groups, employers, insurance companies, and the Department of Community Health – has forged an unprecedented agreement to cover costs of cancer clinical trials.

This new agreement would make Michigan one of only five states to cover routine patient costs associated with clinical trials. The agreement is unique because it was formed by a coalition of more than 25 organizations who are normally at odds in the legislative arena. This new policy, only the second in the nation and described as a “consensus model,” is designed to creatively and responsibly increase participation in cancer clinical trials and correct the imbalance that presently exists between traditional treatments and clinical trials.

This year, an estimated 45,300 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Michigan, and an estimated 19,800 Michigan citizens will die. While early detection offers the best opportunity to cure cancers, many Michigan citizens with advanced stages of cancer would have benefited from being part of an advanced clinical trial for treatment. The American Cancer Society reports that less than 5 percent of adult patients participate in cancer clinical trials, even though they are the best way to develop newer, more effective and less invasive cancer treatments.

Overall access to such clinical trials has been problematic because of the issue of coverage. Until recently, clinical trials have been viewed as being ‘experimental,’ so many procedures are not covered by insurers, even when such procedures would have been covered in other care not associated with a clinical trial.

“While cost isn't the only reason people don't participate in clinical trials, it is a very important factor,” says Samuel Silver, M.D., Ph.D., clinical associate professor of internal medicine, the U-M Cancer Center’s representative on the working group. “Cancer physicians may also be reluctant to offer a clinical trial to patients covered under some insurance companies, because in the past, placing a patient on a clinical trial could jeopardize the coverage of the ‘standard’ parts of their treatment. Our coalition agreed that the coverage issue needed to be addressed if we hope to increase our numbers in clinical trials, and ultimately, save more lives,” Silver continues.

This new agreement would make Michigan one of only five states to cover routine patient costs associated with clinical trials.

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