Tuesday, June 19

UCLA, VA partner to provide cancer therapy clinical trials to veterans

UCLA announced Wednesday it would partner with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to offer cancer therapy clinical trials for men and women who have served in the armed forces.

The Operation Mend Project to Enhance Cancer Care for Veterans allows veterans in the Los Angeles area to enroll in cancer treatment trials being led by UCLA scientists. Dr. Fairooz Kabbinavar, co-leader of the project and a UCLA professor of hemotology and oncology, said the program offers new, non-approved drugs in tightly-regulated clinical trails.

Kabbinavar added it provides additional options for veterans whose current treatments are not effective enough and for those who have exhausted all treatments available.

The program, the first in the nation to bring experimental cancer treatments to veterans, has about six clinical trials open. The trials focus on specific cancers that are more common in the veteran population than the average population, such as cancers that affect the head, neck, lungs and liver, Kabbinavar said.

Kabbinavar said he and his colleagues envisioned the project more than two years ago when they saw the VA in western Los Angeles did not have an active clinical trial research program.

The Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Ronald A. Katz Center for Collaborative Military Medicine and Operation Mend collaborated to offer the treatments.

Operation Mend is a partnership between UCLA Health and the VA, which provides surgical and medical treatments to veterans. Operation Mend relies on donations to fund its procedures.

Kabbinavar said he anticipates they will open more trials as the program goes along. Though the program has only been funded for two years, it could be extended, he added. Kabbinavar said he hopes opening more trials and treating more patients would generate enough income for the program to be able to fund itself.

“We want to grow so we become self-sufficient, and hope the project can serve as a model for other VA facilities,” Kabbinavar said.

Compiled by Kat Bocanegra Speed, Bruin contributor.

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