Health studies such as clinical trials allow participants to help in the discovery of new medical knowledge, and in many cases, the patients are personally helped by the treatments they have access to.
Kaiser Permanente has opportunities for members who have been diagnosed with cancer to participate in important research and clinical trials. Kaiser Permanente has been conducting oncology trials since 1972.
“Kaiser Permanente has our own research center and we have access to one of the largest databases of medical records in the world,” says Senior Clinical Researcher Michelle Jones at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland. “In fact, Kaiser Permanente is part of one of the largest cancer clinical research groups in the country.”
When Kaiser Permanente members are diagnosed with cancer, they immediately have access to an integrated team of oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse navigators, and other specialists. Through Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, cancer patients also have access to extensive clinical research and clinical trials.
“We are constantly accessing new technologies that allow us to innovate and find more ways to help patients with their unique needs,” says Jones.
Among women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, 30% have a prior diagnosis of benign breast disease (BBD), which makes this a promising front for research to help understand the factors that cause BBD to escalate. Three studies with results published in 2021 undertaken by Kaiser Permanente doctors and researchers looked at BBD.
One study, led by Kaiser Permanente researcher Dr. Sheila Weinmann, examined the role of infiltrating immune cell counts (IICCs) in a cohort of 15,395 women biopsied for BBD. Immune cells are cells that are part of the immune system that help the body fight diseases and infections. IICCs are immune cells that have moved from the blood into a tumor, where they can recognize and kill cancer cells. Weinmann’s research concluded that IICCs in BBD tissue are not associated with an increased risk of subsequent invasive breast cancer.
A second study led by award-winning Kaiser Permanente researcher Erin Bowles examined the risk factors of women who are diagnosed with BBD later developing invasive breast cancer. Her research determined that a certain identifiable characteristic of the BBD biopsy was associated with increasing breast cancer risk, a discovery which brings new insight into breast cancer risk factors and treatment.
Three Kaiser Permanente researchers — Dr. Andrew G. Glass, who founded the Kaiser Permanente Northwest Oncology Department, Teresa M. Kimes and Dr. Kathryn Richert-Boe — examined 514 invasive breast cancer cases and 514 matched controls to determine that there are some identifiable risks that can translate into tumors that develop after a BBD diagnosis. Among this group, the tumors that followed a BBD diagnosis were highly treatable.
In addition to these three cancer research studies, Kaiser Permanente Northwest is one of the top five enrolling sites in the US in an ongoing national breast cancer clinical trial where they’re hoping to learn if the usual chemotherapy given before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) for breast cancer plus an experimental drug, atezolizumab, is better than the usual chemotherapy plus a placebo.*
Kaiser Permanente’s highly experienced oncology staff, their participation in clinical research, and their access to leading clinical trials provides members with state-of-the art cancer treatment. “While each case fits certain parameters that cancer researchers have seen before, each case is also unique, because each case represents an individual person with unique needs and treatment options,” says Jones. “Clinical trials and research help us provide every patient with the best and most personalized treatment options available and we’re proud that Kaiser Permanente can offer our patients this complete range of services.”
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