Research Centre News – February 2022

Written by Isabelle Crépeau MLIS, Scientific Information Officer

Clinical Trials at St. Mary’s Hospital Centre: More than 25 years of advancing cancer treatments for patients

For World Cancer Day, we met with Dr. Adrian Langleben, Head of the Oncology Department at St. Mary’s Hospital Centre to learn more about the history and future of cancer trials at our hospital.

Dr. Adrian Langleben

When did the clinical trials program start?
Clinical trials are studies in which people help doctors find ways to develop new treatments and medications for diseases and conditions. 25 years ago, St. Mary’s Hospital Centre (SMHC) joined McGill University in a cancer clinical trials program. When the CIUSSS structure developed in 2015, the dynamic changed and SMHC had to rebuild the program within the new structure. There is now a team of seven physicians leading protocols in the area of lung, pancreatic, colon, breast and bladder cancers.

What are the challenges of doing a trial in a smaller hospital?
The culture of clinical trials is usually not as developed in smaller hospitals. In the past three years, SMHC rapidly upgraded nursing skills, pharmacy data entry and quality control systems. With the Research and Ethic Committee, SMHC is a very competent institution for clinical trials. Despite the difficulties, we were able to show that it was possible to conduct clinical trials in a smaller hospital. This is in large part because everyone on the team believed that it was important to make research trials available for St. Mary’s cancer patients. Nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and trial personnel came together towards a common goal.

The impact of the results of several studies was so important, that these became the new standard of care for patients.

Why is it important to conduct these trials at SMHC?
Clinical trials bring significant advantages for patients. Patients are able to receive comprehensive care and advanced treatment in the same institution. They interact with healthcare staff they know and who knows them. They have access to modern therapy, innovative treatment approaches and new drugs that often or not yet approved by Health Canada for general use.

Often these new therapies can prove to be very effective, which is a significant advantage in cancer treatment and survivorship. For SMHC, clinical trials allow its physicians to stay ahead in cancer care, a rapidly evolving medical field. Access to cutting edge therapy makes a difference in survival.

Can you tell us a bit about your successes: how many trials, how many patients?
By the end of 2022, we hope to have up to 20 active trials. We have approximately 35 patients enrolled on the studies so far and the target is 60 per year. Over the years, the impact of the results of several studies was so important, that these results became the new standard of care for patients.

What about partnerships with other hospitals or collaborative groups?
Partnerships are very important so studies can be done in a collaborative way with other institutions. They allow the healthcare team to plan the cancer care trajectory ahead of time and ensure that the treatment is coordinated according to the patients’ needs (special surgery, radiotherapy, etc.) and to provide continuous monitoring. For instance, last year, St. Mary’s joined the McPeak-Sirois collaborative trials group. In addition to the recognition that comes with this membership, we’ll be able to share knowledge and experience in addition to making more trials available to cancer patients treated at SMHC.

On February 4, 2022, World Cancer Day recognized the power of knowledge. For 25 years, SMHC clinical trial team has been dedicated to reducing the global impact of cancer. It aims to effectively transform discoveries into new knowledge and treatments for our patients and our community. Thank you Dr. Langleben and team!

• Dr. Adrian Langleben, Head of Oncology
• Dr. Richard Dalfen
• Dr. Khashayar Esfahani
• Dr. Nicholas Meti
• Dr. Laura Habib
• Dr. Carolyne Elbaz
• Dr. Jaroslav Prchal
• Franca Cantini, Program Manager, Clinical Trial Operations for Oncology
• Marisa Cantini, Clinical Regulatory Coordinator
• Rachelle Dumas, Clinical Research Coordinator
• Daniel Small, Clinical Research Coordinator
• Mohamed-Amine Senhaji, Clinical Regulatory Coordinator
• Yaminee Patel, Administrative Agent