Cancer Clinical Trial Awareness at 19,341 Feet
In February 2015, pancreatic cancer expert and surgeon Brett Sheppard, M.D, F.A.C.S. and SWOG Cancer Research Chair Charles Blanke, M.D. climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness of the importance of cancer clinical trials and to bring attention to dwindling federal funding for the National Cancer Institute and its National Clinical Trials Network. Ever since the recession in 2008, millions in federal funds for clinical trials have been cut each year. As a result, clinical trials that could stand to save lives and improve treatment are waylaid or go unsupported.
In addition to funding, cancer clinical trials require willing participants: patients who are suffering from a disease and are still willing to help. As stated recently by Dr. Sheppard, “While in some cases we may be changing our approach to clinical trials, such as conducting SMART trials, clinical trials remain the foundation for advancement of cancer care. Generations of future patients will be ever grateful for the bravery and altruism of our clinical trial patients today. We honor them.” In recognition of the 200,000 cancer patients who have participated in Drs. Sheppard and Blanke’s clinical trials, a banner with each of their initials was unfurled at the 19,341 foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
As a result of Drs. Sheppard and Blanke’s climb and fund raising, over $110,000 was donated to The Hope Foundation, which, together with SWOG, funds critical, need-based research grants, fellowships, training events, physician education, and patient advocacy.
At OHSU, Dr. Sheppard leads the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Health - a clinical and translational science initiative with research aimed at early detection strategies for diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at a more curable stage. Pancreatic cancer is currently the second most lethal cancer to contract, as it's often detected too late to treat effectively.