Cancer center joins trial network

ELKINS – The Cancer Care Center of Davis Medical Center is joining a statewide cancer clinical trials network in order to keep cancer patients closer to home when receiving treatment.

Dr. Donald Fleming, hematologist and oncologist with the Cancer Care Center, said joining the trials network is a good thing.

“We will be in the forefront of this trials network as it is still a work in progress, but we have joined in its infancy,” Fleming said. “It will take a few more months before it is organized and running.”

Fleming, a board member of the West Virginia Oncology Society, said when patients are first diagnosed with cancer, 95 percent of the available treatments are able to be administered through most facilities.

“The other five percent require investigative treatments,” he said.

“We are not satisfied with 95 percent – we want nearly 100 percent of treatments to be completed locally.”

Fleming said he realizes there are some treatments that cannot be completed at all facilities.

“Stem cell transplants are one thing that will not be offered here in Elkins,” Fleming said. “West Virginia University Hospital performs those.”

He said the trials in Elkins will most likely focus on breast, colorectal, prostrate and lung cancer.

Fleming said when patients are first diagnosed with cancer, they are looking for lots of answers.

“Patients are scared and looking for treatment, and many want to stay local rather than travel for treatment,” Fleming said. “Staying closer to home helps because patients feel more comfortable in their own home in their own surroundings.”

Fleming said some patients, especially the elderly, will sacrifice outcomes so they do not have to travel for treatments.

“Home is where the heart is,” Fleming said. “People feel better when they are in their own home and can rest.”

He said the Cancer Care Center is a place where patients can feel at home.

“The Cancer Care Center pulls from a large geographical area,” Fleming said. “Patients who travel distances can stay at the Davis House, which serves as a local home away from home.”

Fleming said he was impressed with the Cancer Care Center when he first came to the facility nearly five and a half years ago.

“Most places I have been offer a large room where all patients are together,” Fleming said. “Here is like going to grandma’s house. Two patients are in a room receiving treatments. They can chat with one another and watch out for each other.”

Statistics show that 20 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients seek treatment beyond the West Virginia state border. Fleming said the trials will help patients have access to state of the art care.

“To get new medicines approved requires jumping through many hoops,” Fleming said. “The work we do is for the patients, not for profit. Ultimately, some of the trials will cost us money. But patient care is the big emphasis.”

Other network partners in the cancer trials network include Beckley Oncology Associates, Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg, Camden Clark Memorial Hospital in Parkersburg, Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center in Morgantown, St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington and Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston.