Research at NGMC: Beyond the Standard of Care

Published: Thursday, May 20, 2021

When clinical trials hit home

When Sheila Patterson, a 58-year-old lung cancer patient who has never smoked, first received the diagnosis of stage 2B non-small cell lung cancer, she felt determined – to be her healthiest, to do everything she could to fight it and to help future patients with the same diagnosis. As a former athlete and teacher, one might say those traits are also simply in her DNA. Sheila learned about the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial from her oncologist, Christina Saurel, MD, who thought it would be a good fit.

“I believe that participating in this study will shed more light on how this new drug can be useful for other cancer patients like me,” said Shelia. “Even with all of the potential side effects Dr. Saurel and my immunotherapy nurse told me about, it was really important to me to participate.”

Now, two years into the clinical trial for the new drug, Sheila has been through many ups and downs, but truly believes it is making a difference.

“At the end of the day, participating in this clinical trial allows the research team to learn and gather valuable information. It’s a positive thing, a hopeful thing.”

When you receive a life-altering diagnosis, whether it’s cancer or a serious heart condition, the endless questions, growing uncertainty and fear can be overwhelming. Even after the initial shock subsides, living with one of these conditions can take its toll – mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s in these moments that Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has a chance to truly be a source of healing and hope when it’s needed most. For many patients, participating in a clinical trial or research can be the innovative and uplifting change they need.

“Whether patients are just beginning their care journey or they have exhausted the treatments available for their specific condition, clinical trials provide an opportunity to try something new,” says Holly Jones, PhD, director of Research Administration at NGMC. “In addition to the outstanding care patients receive in our system, participating in clinical trials can provide hope, which is extremely powerful.”

What are clinical trials?

Whenever there’s a new method to prevent, diagnose or treat a specific health condition, clinical trials are used to scientifically evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a new drug or medical device. Whether it’s a medication, procedure, device or another type of therapy – clinical trials help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determine which experimental medical interventions may be approved for future use on a larger scale. For example, pacemakers weren’t available until they went through clinical trials. Now, they’re one of the most proven and trusted treatments for an abnormal heartbeat. Clinical trials play a crucial role in advancing the future of care and are the primary way that researchers make new, progressive and effective treatments available to patients.

Clinical trials at NGMC

While clinical trials have recently expanded to include a wide array of specialties, NGMC’s research efforts have historically focused on the areas of oncology and cardiology. Due to the continued hard work and efforts of research nurse managers Donna Patrick, RN, and Trena Davis, RN, as well as our clinical research team, NGMC patients with cancer and heart disease typically have access to more than 40 clinical trials per year.

“Over the last several years, NGMC has seen a strong and steady increase in the number of clinical trials and scholarly activities we’re involved in,” said Dr. Jones. “This includes enhancing patient care with new quality improvement initiatives, evidence-based practice, as well as strong participation in national clinical trials. This dedication to research and advancement truly sets NGMC apart from other healthcare systems in the region and more importantly, it can improve patient care – both now and in the future.”

Over the last 15 years, NGMC has participated in several national clinical trials that have brought new therapies to market, including the anticoagulant drug Eliquis, and the breakthrough cancer immunologic drug, Keytruda. NGMC’s participation in the clinical trials helped support the FDA approval of both drugs, which are now considered a standard of care in the respective areas of heart and cancer care.

NGMC is currently offering a wide range of clinic trials. To see if one may be right for you, talk with your doctor to learn more about how you might qualify for a trial.