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WellSpan Oncology Services, Cancer Care Associates of York first in the U.S. selected for international breast cancer research study

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

WellSpan Health announced today that WellSpan Oncology Services and Cancer Care Associates of York are the first in the United States selected to participate in an international research study to test the effectiveness of a specific drug combination to treat breast cancer.

“This is just another example of the sophistication of our clinical trials program in the area of oncology,” said Douglas Arbittier, M.D., vice president of WellSpan’s Oncology Service Line. “Our director of oncology research, Debi Oxenberg, and her staff are a hidden jewel within our organization. Through their hard work we are giving our patients access to innovative cancer treatments and protocols that are not available elsewhere.”

“This is an exciting study,” said L. Eamonn Boyle, M.D., with Cancer Care Associates of York and the study’s principal investigator. “With WellSpan’s commitment to clinical research and their specially trained research team, it is possible for the nurses and doctors who care for patients to access the improved treatments in their community earlier than would otherwise be possible.”

The research study will examine the efficacy and safety of the drug, atezolizumab, as it works in concert with another drug, trastuzumab emtansine, in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer. HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, is a protein that is overproduced by some cancer cells and promotes cancer cell growth.

Atezolizumab is considered cancer immunotherapy, which is a drug that assists the immune system by preventing cancer cells from disguising themselves as normal cells. This is the first time in the United States that this immunotherapy is being tested to combat breast cancer.

“Immunotherapy has been the most exciting development in the last several years,” said Robert Rice, M.D., with WellSpan Medical Oncology & Hematology, who is involved in the study. “This is about harnessing the immune system to unmask cancer cells hiding from it. It is a different modality of attack, and the more tools we have in our toolbox the more effective we can be with treatment.

“Anything that can help us treat breast cancer effectively for patients is our goal – the best benefits with the least side effects,” he added. “And through trials like this we learn how to do that.”

In essence, this study will analyze how atezolizumab and trastuzumab emtansine work together to stop cancer cell growth and then boost the immune system’s ability to identify and respond to cancer cells.

Physicians with WellSpan and Cancer Care Associates of York are conducting the study in Adams, Lancaster and York counties. The team is already the first in the United States to enroll a patient in the study, and they are working to enroll additional patients.

The study is sponsored by Switzerland-based biotech company, Roche. Approximately 200 subjects internationally will take part in the research.

For more information on clinical research at WellSpan, visit WellSpan.org/Research.

For more information about Cancer Care Associates of York, visit cancercareyork.navigatingcare.com.

About WellSpan Health
WellSpan Health is an integrated health system that serves the communities of central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The organization is comprised of a multispecialty medical group of more than 1,200 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a home care organization, six respected hospitals, more than 15,000 employees, and more than 130 patient care locations. WellSpan is a charitable, mission-driven organization, committed to exceptional care for all, lifelong wellness and healthy communities.


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