by Mike Lee
Jane Hajovsky jokes that her nurses are known as the "protocol police."
The executive director of the Colorado Cancer Research Program can laugh about her group’s image but even those making the joke recognize what the program does for Colorado residents suffering from cancer.
Through a National Cancer Institute grant, Hajovsky and her program are able to enroll patients in potential lifesaving clinical trials.
The Colorado Cancer Research Program is a non-profit community-based cancer program established to provide community hospitals and physicians access to a wide range of cancer research trials in order to provide their patients with greater options for the treatment, control, and prevention of cancer.
As one of 55 community oncology programs in the United States, Hajovsky said the program is designated to conduct cancer clinical trials and is the best way to test how to treat, control and prevent cancer.
The project’s headquarters are located at 2253 S. Oneida in Denver.
"Clinical trials are the way any new treatment comes to market," Hajovsky said. "To some degree today’s treatments are yesterday’s clinical trials.
"We’re doing predominantly what is considered testing of new treatments. We’re not developing new ideas, we’re testing new treatments. Our focus is on the patient and finding new treatment for that patient and improving the standard of care."
Sixteen Colorado community hospitals partner together to form the Colorado Cancer Research Program Consortium.
The consortium was formed to ensure that their hospital-affiliated physicians and their patients have local access to clinical trials through the CCRP mechanism.
This local availability makes it possible to have earlier access to new therapies.
Hajovsky says the hospital network is invaluable to the program and vice versa.
"It’s a big plus for their patients and physicians who want to be able to give their patients the most options," Hajovsky said of what the program can offer clinicians.
As consortium partners, each hospital is represented on the CCRP Board of Trustees, providing guidance and community leadership in order that CCRP may continue its valuable community service.
Only three to five percent of adult cancer patients actually participate in cancer clinical trials while approximately 20% may be eligible, according to CCRP estimates.
The rate of clinical trials participation determines how fast the science advances.
Educating the public and increasing awareness of cancer clinical trials is the first step towards increasing clinical trials participation.
"They’re crucial to getting that information with really quantifiable answers that doctors can use to make good decisions," Hajovsky said. "Luckily, there are now treatment options for people with cancer, but what they need is good information on what results come from those options."
Hajovsky’s office has 21 employees with nine nurses who travel to various oncology practices in the Denver area to enroll patients for studies.
Hajovsky admits they’re sticklers for detail, hence the nickname the protocol police.
But she says they’re just doing their jobs so the trials can have the most accurate results.
Currently the program is in Boulder, Longmont, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs and Pueblo with an expansion to Greeley and Loveland planned soon.
At any given time, Hajovsky said the program has between 50 and 65 trials running.