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Cancer Patients Gain Access to Latest Therapies

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 1997 – TRICARE/CHAMPUS-eligible patients will gain access to new cancer therapies under an agreement between DoD and the National Cancer Institute.

The agreement provides TRICARE/CHAMPUS patients access to clinical trials through a nationwide network of 2,000 comprehensive and clinical cancer centers, community hospitals and practices, and DoD treatment facilities. Institute-sponsored clinical trials help care providers evaluate new treatment approaches for adult and pediatric cancers.

CHAMPUS, currently undergoing a name change and conversion to fall under TRICARE, will cover therapy costs for eligible cancer patients who enroll in Phase II and Phase III cancer institute clinical trials.

"This is an important commitment by DoD because it provides cancer patients with more choices for their treatment and it promotes the development of improved cancer therapies," said Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "TRICARE/CHAMPUS-eligible individuals can now take advantage of some of the most promising treatments science has to offer."

To participate in the clinical trials, TRICARE/CHAMPUS-eligible patients first must have their physician confirm with PGBA CHAMPUS that the proposed trial meets the terms of the demonstration project. PGBA CHAMPUS is the DoD contractor serving as national point of contact for this program.

Once authorized and the patient agrees to participate, the physician must contact PGBA CHAMPUS for treatment authorization. To learn more about PGBA CHAMPUS requirements, patients can call the office toll-free at (800) 779-3060.

DoD participation in the clinical trials also expands the cancer institute's research capabilities, said Dr. Robert Wittes, director of the institute's Division of Cancer Treatment, Diagnosis and Centers.

"This agreement with DoD will move us in the direction of ensuring that trials enroll enough patients to answer vital research questions about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer," Wittes said.

For general information about NCI-sponsored clinical trials, contact the National Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service at (800) 422-6237 or TTY (800) 332-8615; or access CancerNet (http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/trials) on the Internet. Health care providers can access a customized data base through the Physician Data Query search service at (800) 345-3300.

The Cancer Information Service, a network of 19 regional offices serving the United States and Puerto Rico, also offers information about institute-sponsored programs. The service provides specific information in English and Spanish about particular types of cancer and the availability of clinical trials. It also can obtain and forward to patients and their families information (including clinical trial listings) from the Physician Data Query. Calls are answered 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time Monday-Friday and automatically routed to the nearest regional office.

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