Five given University Cancer Research Fund Clinical Innovation Awards

The University Cancer Research Fund Clinical Innovation Awards are designed to foster new research, with a preference given to innovation in patient care and services that should elevate current care models or break new ground at UNC-Chapel Hill in strategic areas within the UCRF’s mission of discovery, innovation, and delivery.

The innovation awards are part of UCRF’s investment in leading-edge cancer care for the citizens of North Carolina.

These competitive awards are reviewed by a panel of more than 25 physicians and researchers who make up the N.C. Cancer Hospital Executive Committee.  In this funding cycle, 10 applications were reviewed and 4 grants have been awarded, totaling $445,000.

Stephen A. Bernard, MD, Professor of Medicine
Symptom Management and Supportive Care Program for the Outpatient Clinics in Medical Oncology/Hematology and Radiation Oncology

Supportive care is medical care focused on maintaining quality of life and managing symptoms for patients who are being treated for cancer.  Supportive care programs focus on outpatients receiving care for cancer and are often associated with palliative care programs but include mainly patients who are being actively treated or may have had treatment in the past and now have late-onset symptoms.

The program lead by Stephen Bernard, MD, Sandra Jarr, MSN, and John Valgus PharmD, BCOP, CPP is one of an increasing number of programs in the United States that deliver supportive care in the outpatient clinical setting. This program is novel for the use of a mobile consultation team that consists of a pharmacist, who is certified by the Boards of Pharmacy and Medicine to be able to prescribe, and a clinical nurse specialist. 
Instead of having to wait for a referral, and potentially an additional visit, to deal with symptom management, drug side effects and other concerns normally addressed by a supportive care team, patients at the N.C. Cancer Hospital are seen the same day in the outpatient clinics.  A half-day clinic, which includes the physician, serves patients who have more complex problems or need ongoing follow-up.  Over the first 18 months of the program, more than 100 patients from approximately one fourth of N.C.’s counties have been seen.  Patients are referred from all adult oncology disciplines.  There have been many positive comments from patients and families about the program.  Symptom scores of pain and other symptoms have shown an improvement after only one or two visits. 

This grant renewal for two years will help the Supportive Care Team to develop newer initiatives such as telemedicine program for pharmacists throughout the state and to continue a successful program that has helped patients from across North Carolina.

Kamakshi V. Rao, PharmD, Oncology Clinical Specialist, UNC Hospitals
Integrated Stem Cell Transplant Medication Therapy Management Clinic – Extending Pharmacy Care Across the Spectrum of Stem Cell Transplantation

Stem cell transplantation is a common treatment for hematologic malignancies like leukemia and multiple myeloma.  UNC’s stem cell transplantation program has grown steadily over the last several years and has a well integrated way to transition patients from inpatient treatment at the N.C. Cancer Hospital to outpatient follow up.

Like many therapies that affect the immune system, stem cell transplant patients often encounter complications that require intensive medication therapy management to avoid potentially serious health consequences.  Patients can be under medication for post-transplant complications such as diabetes, immunosuppression, pain and anticoagulation.

This grant will provide a dedicated clinical pharmacist in the Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) clinic to help manage the medications of patients with complications and complex conditions, with the goal of improving patient health outcomes and streamlining processes in the SCT clinic to improve the patient experience.  The clinical pharmacist will create protocols that optimize the approach to some of the common long-term complications experience by patients after a stem cell transplant.

Julian G. Rosenman, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiation Oncology
Telemedicine for Radiation Therapy Peer Review

Radiation oncology is an important tool in the arsenal of cancer treatment, but requires coordination among and between different cancer specialists.  Detailed peer review of radiation treatment planning is believed to lead to increased cure rates and decreased side effects for cancer patients.  For that reason, UNC’s Department of Radiation Oncology holds detailed review sessions each morning to examine proposed treatment plans for appropriate and accuracy.

This clinical innovation initiative will provide a telemedicine solution for detailed peer review of treatment plans between UNC and affiliated centers at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, facilities in Smithfield and Wakefield, and a future facility in Clayton.  This project will also extend UNC’s detailed treatment planning software and provide a solution to integrate the software across the various treatment facilities.  This technology will allow the sites outside of Chapel Hill to participate in the Department’s detailed peer review.

In addition, the project will provide training for radiation oncology personnel in detailed treatment planning and for neurosurgeons wishing to define tumor volumes for patients scheduled to undergo CyberknifeTM surgery.

Donald Rosenstein, MD, Professor of Psychiatry
Holly Hough, PhD
Comprehensive Cancer Support Program:  Integrative Medicine Services

UNC Lineberger’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program (CCSP) provides a full range of support services for cancer patients.  Integrative medicine, which includes lymphedema therapy, massage therapy and yoga classes, is a core component of this program.  This new program shows great promise and is poised to expand through partnerships with several UNC departments.  The CCSP also plans to launch a free integrative medicine clinic to serve uninsured patients at UNC and in the community.

This clinical innovation award will serve as a startup grant to support integrative medicine services until they are fully established and to assist in the creation of the free clinic.