SCCA Network News

SCCA Network News, Issue 9 Winter 2011

In this Issue:


Accruals to Network Clinical Trials

One of the goals of the SCCA Network is to provide Network members with as many research opportunities as possible, to help each site create a robust clinical research program that provides a clinical trial option for most patients. To make this possible, we need your help.

The Network Office works with SCCA disease site programs and pharmaceutical companies to identify new clinical trials to offer Network members. As part of this process, the Network Office is frequently asked to provide information about the member institutions’ participation on previous trials. The programs and pharmaceutical companies want to know whether Network member institutions enrolled to the trials and whether they implemented the protocols appropriately.

SCCA’s strategic plan requires specific metrics to evaluate the success of its programs, including efficient and effective clinical trials and Network site enrollment in clinical trials. Last year Network enrollment increased by 21.4 percent over the previous year to 41 enrollees. The goal for this fiscal year (July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011) is to increase enrollment by 20.6 percent by June 30, 2011. As of the second quarter of this fiscal year, nine patients have been enrolled in clinical trials, less than 25% of our goal.

If we can increase Network site enrollment, more trials will become available to Network sites in the future. Two important trials for your patients to assist us in this endeavor are:

Lack of accrual at Network sites may be attributed to lack of effective screening, inadequate research staff, and insufficient studies. If your site has an electronic medical record system and Network staff can be given access to it, we can assist you by screening for the studies offered through our office. We can also provide assistance with data management for these studies leaving your research staff free to focus on approaching potential participants and implementing the studies appropriately at your site.

For more information on this endeavor and the aforementioned trials, contact Tove Thompson at (206) 288-1233 or


Non-myeloablative Regimens Expand Eligibility for Those with Co-morbidities

Bone marrow transplants that use non-myeloablative conditioning regimens are well tolerated by most patients who are ineligible for conventional high-dose conditioning prior to transplantation due to advanced age or co-morbidities.

Thanks to these “mini-transplants,” there is no absolute upper age limit for transplantation. Patients in their 60s, 70s, and 80s (as well as younger patients) now undergo non-myeloablative transplants at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Transplant Program at SCCA. A majority (60 percent) never have to be hospitalized during their transplant process and complete their conditioning, stem cell infusion, and recovery entirely in outpatient settings.

Our researchers are conducting a series of clinical trials on non-myeloablative (mini) transplants in older patients who have related or unrelated HLA-matched donors and acute myelogenous leukemia, adult high-risk acute lymphocytic leukemia, refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia, advanced non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or various myelodysplastic syndromes. Advanced age alone does not disqualify patients from participating in these trials.

If you are considering referring a patient for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, and want to discuss treatment options with a physician, please call our Intake Office and ask to speak to the clinical coordinator. The clinical coordinator is a physician transplant specialist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Call (206) 288- SCCA (7222) or (800) 804-8824.


Analysis of Inherited Cancers

Elizabeth Swisher, MD, from SCCA and Toshiyasu Taniguchi MD, PhD, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are conducting a study to better understand how BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) mutated cancers develop resistance to chemotherapy.

This research has led to a surprising finding that ovarian cancers in women with BRCA1/ mutations are initially deficient in BRCA1/2, expressing only the mutant, non-functional BRCA1/2 protein. These cancers are highly sensitive to platinum-based chemotherapy, as well as to a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors. However, during the course of treatment, these cancers do develop chemo-resistance.

Drs. Swisher and Taniguchi have discovered that some cancers develop secondary mutations that correct the inherited BRCA1/2 mutation and restore functional BRCA1/2 protein. The restoration of BRCA1/2 causes resistance to platinum chemotherapy and to PARP inhibitors.

Expanding their findings in ovarian cancer to include breast, prostate, and other cancers they are now studying individuals with BRCA1/2 mutations who have had a recurrent cancer or more than one cancer in both men and women. Please contact study coordinator Kathy Agnew at (206) 685-7927 for more information.


Elizabeth Swisher, MD

Dr. Swisher is medical director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She also leads a laboratory studying how ovarian cancer starts, focusing on pathways that may lead to better prevention and early detection. Dr. Swisher is studying mechanisms of chemo-resistance in inherited cancers and how the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes influence response to chemotherapy.

Dr. Swisher is an associate professor in the Gynecologic Oncology Division and an adjunct associate professor in the Division of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is an affiliate investigator in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Dr. Swisher’s research has contributed to the new view that many ovarian cancers do not start in the ovary but are seeded from malignant cells that first arise in the fallopian tubes causing experts to re-think the best ways to detect and prevent early ovarian or tubal cancers.

Outside of work, Dr. Swisher enjoys sports and spending time outdoors with her husband and two daughters.


Overlake Hospital Medical Center

Overlake Hospital Medical Center’s celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Once a small 56-bed community hospital, Overlake has since grown to become one of the leading medical centers in the region with a reputation for world-class medical excellence.

Located in Bellevue, WA, Overlake has a long-standing commitment to comprehensive cancer care from prevention and education, to diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.

The Cancer Center at Overlake has interdisciplinary cancer programs for breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers. Their comprehensive care approach is carried out by medical experts and experienced clinical staff, two dedicated oncology social workers, patient navigators, a lung cancer nurse navigator, nutritionist, cancer rehabilitation specialists, research coordinators, and pastoral staff. This year through Gilda’s Club Seattle, Overlake offers four new support groups facilitated by Gilda’s Club trained experts. In collaboration with SCCA, Overlake launched a Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic in 2009. SCCA Network affiliation expands Overlake’s commitment to cancer research. Given that 80 percent of cancer care occurs in the community hospital setting, one way to increase patients’ access to more clinical trials is through partnership with the SCCA Network.


William B. Reece, MD

Dr. Reece is medical director of radiation oncology at the Cancer Center at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, WA. He treats all forms of cancer in a community practice setting and expanded the services of Overlake Radiation Oncology to include stereotactic radiation for both the brain (stereotactic radiation therapy-SRS) and body (stereotactic body radiation therapy- SBRT).

Dr. Reece is involved in clinical research at Overlake with breast and lung cancer protocols. He is principle investigator on a trial that looks at using Nimotuzumab, a monoclonal antibody that blocks epidural growth factor receptor (EGFR), in conjunction with brain radiation for lung cancer patients with brain metastases.

He earned his medical degree at Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Reece completed his residency in radiologic oncology at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, as well as a residency and internship in internal medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Dr. Reece also attended the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY where he earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in general engineering.

Before joining Overlake in 2007, Dr. Reece spent 28 years in the U.S. Army, retiring from service as a colonel, with his last position being Consultant to the Surgeon General for Radiation Oncology.


Clinic Cancer Care

For more than 93 years, the Clinic Cancer Care has provided comprehensive, state-of-the-art medical care in North Central Montana. They are the region’s leader in the delivery and advancement of state-of-the-art cancer care and collaborate extensively with an array of physicians, providers, and the general public on patient care, cancer research, and the advancement of state-of-the-art technology.

Clinic Cancer Care actively participates on a national level in clinical research trials. These trials incorporate state-of-the-art patient care while evaluating the best way to apply the most recent breakthroughs in cancer medicine.

Clinic Cancer Care further exemplifies their commitment to fully integrated regional care. Full integration of services means that all diagnostic, imaging, treatment, and support services are located in the same building, adjacent to one-another on the ground floor, provided by a single cohesive group of caring physicians and support staff. It is simply a comprehensive, compassionate, patient-centered cancer center located in a facility specifically designed to provide a calming, healing, hopeful environment. Clinic Cancer Care is proud to be a network member of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.


Karl A. Guter, MD

Dr. Karl Guter is an adult blood disorders and solid tumor specialist at Clinic Cancer Care in Great Falls, MT. He offers comprehensive medical oncology and hematology care, including treatment in various clinical trials. He most frequently participates in studies focusing on lung cancer and gastrointestinal tumors.

Educated at University of Dayton, in Ohio, Dr. Guter earned his medical degree at St. Louis University. He completed his internship at University of Indiana Medical Center, his medical residency at University of Cincinnati, a hematology fellowship at University of Cincinnati, followed by a medical oncology fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he trained under Paul Carbonne, MD.

When Dr. Guter moved to Great Falls in 1977, he was the first medical oncologist in North Central Montana. He relocated from Wisconsin after having previously enjoyed outdoor recreation in Montana for many years. Dr. Guter is also an oncology consultant at Fort Harrison VA Hospital where he has served for 25 years. He spends most of his free time with his wife and two children.


Network in the Community

Skagit Valley Hospital held the Women’s Health Luncheon on October 28th. SCCA’s chaplain Debra Jarvis was the featured speaker. Debra discussed her own recovery from Stage II breast cancer and her thoughts about the importance of finding meaning in the life challenges.

Olympic Medical Center’s Eight Annual Harvest of Hope Gala took place on October 23rd. A fabulous four-course dinner was prepared by Chef Doug Seaver of Michale’s Divine Dining in Port Angeles and paired with featured wines. The gala supports patients and families of the Thomas Family Center at the Olympic Medical Center.