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Avera Expands Access to Clinical Trials in Cancer Care

Aug 04, 2020 03:52PM ● By MED Magazine
John Lee, MD, FACS, Clinical Medical Officer for Cancer Research at the Avera Cancer Institute

Avera Health is expanding its cancer research so that more people at more sites can receive the most cutting-edge options in cancer care as close to home as possible.

“We are working toward a larger goal of offering the majority of our clinical trials at all Avera Cancer Institute locations,” said John Lee, MD, FACS, Clinical Medical Officer for Cancer Research at the Avera Cancer Institute. Avera Cancer Institute centers are located in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Pierre, Mitchell and Yankton, S.D., and Marshall, Minn. “We are one Avera Cancer Institute with six cancer centers. This goal fits well with our vision of One Avera in which all patients benefit from the strength of our system."

“The first patient enrolled in a clinical trial in Pierre – this is a major milestone for cancer care in Pierre,” Donepudi added.The Pierre cancer center has enrolled its first patient in a cancer clinical trial. This trial is evaluating the role of immunotherapy in patients with early stage triple-negative breast cancer. Currently, immunotherapy is only approved for patients with more advanced cancer. “We know immunotherapy works well in triple-negative breast cancer patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This trial will help discover if it works well in early stage breast cancer as well,” said Sreekanth Donepudi, MD, MPH, oncologist with Avera Cancer Institute in Pierre.

Sreekanth Donepudi, MD, MPH, oncologist with Avera Cancer Institute in Pierre

Pierre is the first Avera Cancer Institute site outside of Sioux Falls and Aberdeen to offer clinical trials to cancer patients. “Avera Cancer Institute cancer research staff have worked with Pierre staff in training and qualifying them for this work. Dr. Donepudi and the team at Avera Cancer Institute in Pierre are very engaged and played an important role in making this happen,” Lee said.

When cancer patients take part in a clinical trial, they are always offered the standard, evidence-based treatment as part of their care plan. Patients have the option to participate in clinical trials in addition to standard treatment. “Patients participate in order to have access to the most cutting-edge options and also to further the advancement of medical science for patients in the future. By participating, they can benefit their own health and impact the lives of others,” Lee said.

Avera St Mary - 1st Cancer Clinical Trial patient


Data shows that clinical trials can improve survival for cancer patients and result in better outcomes, always depending on the individual case. “Our expert physicians, cancer research nurses and staff work diligently to determine which clinical trials may benefit an individual patient. When that opportunity clearly presents itself, we offer patients the option to participate,” Lee said. “By offering clinical trials throughout the Avera footprint, people have greater access to all care options as close to home as possible.”