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DoD, Cancer Institute Continue Treatment Trials

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 1998 – A continuing agreement between DoD and the National Cancer Institute allows TRICARE-eligible patients access to the latest cancer therapies at more than 2,000 sites around the country.

Under the demonstration project that began in 1996, TRICARE-eligible patients who meet clinical criteria can have their treatment covered while they participate in research studies designed to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

An earlier demonstration, begun in 1994, covered treatment for only breast cancer under NCI-sponsored Phase III clinical trials. When DoD and NCI entered into a new cancer trials partnership in 1996, the demonstration expanded to include other cancers and Phase II and Phase III trials.

Phase I trials are the first step in testing a new treatment in humans. In these studies, researchers look for the best way to give a new treatment -- for example, by mouth, intravenous drip or injection, and how many times a day. They also try to find out if and how the treatment can be given safely and they watch for any harmful side effects. Because less is known about the possible risks and benefits in Phase I, these studies usually include only a limited number of patients who would not be helped by other known treatments.

Phase II trials focus on learning whether the new treatment has an anti-cancer effect: Does it shrink a tumor or improve blood test results? As in Phase I, only a small number of people take part because of the risks and unknowns involved.

Phase III trials compare the results of people taking the new treatment with results of people taking standard treatment: Which group has better survival rates and fewer side effects. In most cases, studies move into Phase III testing only after a treatment shows promise in Phases I and II. Phase III trials may include hundreds of people around the country.

TRICARE patients who want to participate in these trials must first have approval from their regional managed care support contractor. Check with the local TRICARE Service Center or the health benefits adviser at the nearest military medical facility for assistance.

Patients and physicians can learn more about choosing clinical trials from PDQ, the NCI's database, which contains a large registry of clinical trials and directories of physicians and organizations providing cancer care. The database also includes summaries for health professionals and patients on cancer treatment, screening, prevention and supportive care.

The NCI's Cancer Information Service provides the latest, most accurate cancer information for patients, families, health care professionals and the public. The Cancer Information Service can use the PDQ database to find cancer clinical trials covered by the DoD/NCI demonstration project. The information service, including the PDQ database, are located on the Internet at http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/trials. This site also provides links to other National Cancer Institute sites on the Internet.

Patients and physicians can reach the Cancer Information Service by calling (800) 422-6237. People with TTY equipment should call (800) 332-8615. Health care professionals can reach the PDQ search service to locate clinical trials, cancer physicians or organizations by calling (800) 345-3300.

For more information on TRICARE, visit DoD's Web site at www.ha.osd.mil.

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