A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, and with cancer impacting 1 in 3 Americans in their lifetime, the disease is one of the most pressing health challenges of our time. Cancer did not stop during the COVID-19 crisis and, even as we begin to manage the pandemic, cancer research and treatment remains an urgent cause for the medical community and, more importantly, for our patients and their families.
Extraordinary precedent fills our sails for this journey. We are buoyed by the scientific community that pioneered successful COVID-19 vaccine research in record time. Their efforts were paradigm-shifting for modern medical research. We need this speed, focus, and innovation to continue against cancer.
As the physician-in-chief at City of Hope Orange County, I am fortunate to serve at an organization that is at the center of eradicating cancer, championing our patients and offering them great hope.
City of Hope patients in Orange County benefit from access to our full network of highly specialized physicians, pioneering cancer research, clinical trials and our hallmark “bench-to-bedside” approach that rapidly moves breakthroughs from the lab into real therapies, including precision medicine techniques that are revolutionizing how cancer is treated.
Over the decades, cancer research conducted at City of Hope has led to significant advances in modern medicine, including the technology behind the first synthetic human insulin and the four most widely used cancer fighting drugs. In fact, each year more than 100 million people around the world benefit from discoveries made at City of Hope.
We’re fortunate to live in a community with many options for exceptional health care. But when it comes to cancer, it’s important to get the best care. At City of Hope, our 1,000 physicians and scientists only treat cancer. They are conducting frontline cancer research that leads to new treatments and cures. They specialize in every kind of cancer – from rare to common and provide targeted treatments for each specific cancer diagnosis. And our focus extends beyond treating cancer. We are identifying new ways to detect cancer earlier and cure it.
While I join my research colleagues in feeling optimistic about the direction of cancer care on the local and global stage, I believe we must also recognize that we have a critical window of opportunity to re-examine many aspects of our cancer research processes. Topping this list is longstanding underrepresentation of large swaths of the population in clinical research trials. For too long, cancer studies have followed rigid eligibility requirements that overlook real-world cancer patients' diversity, leaving many needlessly shut out. Most clinical trial participants are white, and only 9% are African-American, 9% Asian, and 18% Hispanic. Further, restrictions on age, co-morbidity and other factors limit participation. An estimated 17%–21% of patients cannot enroll in clinical trials due to restrictive exclusionary criteria.
While it is understood that clinical trial exclusions are intended to protect participant safety and define an appropriate study population, the opposite may result. Clinical trials must be inclusive and representative of our populations.
It’s time to get aligned on the all-important goal of ending the disease, in every form.
Orange County is a special place, and so is City of Hope. We’re here as a good neighbor, bringing our world-renowned cancer research and nationally recognized compassionate care closer to home for Orange County residents.
Our vision is to eliminate cancer and create healthier communities. And that’s a future all of us want.
Edward Kim, MD, MBA, is Physician-in-Chief at City of Hope Orange County, and the Vice Physician-in-Chief, City of Hope National Medical Center.
If you or a loved need expert cancer care, make an appointment to speak with the world-class cancer specialists at City of Hope Newport Beach, the first Orange County outpatient clinic in our regional network of care. Call (949) 763-2204 or request an appointment online.