|by Sharon J. Glazer, MPH, Editor, Academics@Baystate newsletter | October 01, 2011
Dr. Tashanna Myers Is Principal Investigator on
20 Active Gynecologic Oncology Protocols
"Special kudos is owed to Baystate, who is the current accrual leader. We should all plan to contact them to learn their advice for putting together so complete a program."
—James Hoffman, MD
The Hospital of Central Connecticut
When Tashanna Myers, MD, Gynecologic Oncologist, arrived at Baystate Medical Center in August 2009, 2 major gynecologic studies were closing and there were no new protocols. Today, there are 20 active protocols covering all major gynecologic cancer sites, and 300+ women have been enrolled in clinical trials this year alone.
"Our participation in GOG (NCI's Gynecologic Oncology Group) was minimal for the past several years...Tashanna came on board, has had great success in recruiting participants, and has really reinvigorated the program,"says Karen Christianson, Director, Human Research Protection Program.
"You Just Have to Believe In It."
Dr. Myers came from Oklahoma University, the top accruer for gynecologic clinical trials in the country—enrolling 30% of all women in such trials. She remembers her fellowship director asking her why some women go on trial and others don't. "'Is it race? Education? SES? No, it's the physician that makes the difference—their belief and enthusiasm,' he said."
Myers sees herself as a sales person for the studies, saying, "As long as women are dying of endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, or ovarian cancer, we have to keep asking the questions."
"It's Unconscionable Not To Offer Someone a Clinical Trial Unless Their Disease Has Been Cured."
Dr. Myers is the Principal Investigator for the GOG protocols, but her practice partners, Drs. Julia Donovan and Michael Dillon, also
"Is there anything from 1987 that you would actually still use? Not your mattress, not your refrigerator. The standard of care for ovarian cancer was set in 1987 - it's not acceptable anymore."
enroll patients. "No one leaves the practice without hearing about some sort of clinical trial," she asserts. They teach residents as well that educating patients about their elegibility for trials is just part of standard patient care.
She is not afraid to encourage patients to go to Boston with the protocol and the consent form, and get a second opinion because she knows that Baystate often has protocols that are not available in Boston. Currently, there are 2 open trials each for ovarian, endometrial and advanced cervical cancers.
According to Myers, large cancer centers are more interested in treating recurrences. So Dana Farber is a major competitor for patients who recur. "But as our program grows, we have a solid base of trials for first line disease and are moving into the second level of therapy."
"It Took 6 Months for My First Phase 2 Trial to Get IRB Approval—Now It Takes 30 Days."
Dr. Myers feels that the IRB reviewers are more comfortable with the process now, and attributes the improvement to working together with HRPP staff to put together quality documents with standardized language.
"This is important because phase 2 trials are smaller and would be fully accrued before I could even get IRB approval." Having phase 2 trials makes Baystate more competitive. She has 3 new protocols before the IRB now, and 2 more will be submitted pending approval by Baystate's Cancer Committee.
"We Are On the Way to Becoming a Parent Institution."
Baystate is currently an affiliate of The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain. But they have met requirements to become a provisional institution, and will submit their application in January 2012. In 2 years, they will be eligible to become a parent institution, which means they will be able to have their own affiliates.
Her dream is to make the GOG studies successful enough to fund a full-time staff member who only works on protocols. That, and to be put out of work, "Wow, we’ve cured endometrial cancer? Now I’ll take up pottery!"
This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of the Academics@Baystate newsletter .