UK HealthCare

Markey Makes Major Impact on National Genomics Trial

As part of ORIEN, patients who agree to participate will be followed under the Total Cancer Care protocol.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 24, 2021) — The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center hit another major milestone in its collaboration with the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN) — since joining ORIEN in 2017, 5,000 patients have been enrolled in the program.

ORIEN is an alliance of 18 major cancer centers that shares information to allow its members to push forward evidence-based cancer care to patients. Working with the ORIEN network, Markey has developed substantial insight into the local patterns in cancer mutations and drug metabolizing genes, allowing for better matching patients to clinical trials and new studies designed to minimize adverse effects caused by medications. 

Markey’s contributions to ORIEN have been substantial — just one year after joining the ORIEN network, Markey hit a milestone of enrolling more than 1,000 patients, placing it in the top third of the consortium in terms of accrual rate. Roughly a year later, UK HealthCare opened the ORIEN Total Cancer Care Protocol to pediatric patients, becoming the first cancer program in the country to do so.

In 2019, UK HealthCare and Lexington Clinic finalized an agreement for collaboration to enhance and expand outpatient cancer care throughout Central Kentucky. Through that partnership, the Markey Cancer Center at Lexington Clinic also has access to ORIEN and has been instrumental in enrolling more Kentuckians into the program.

“When asked if they’d like to participate in this program, the response from our patients here has been remarkable,” said Dr. William Camp, hematologist/oncologist with the Markey Cancer Center at Lexington Clinic. “They have recognized the value of this alliance studying their personal cancer information not only for themselves, but also to other present and future individuals with cancer and their families.” 

ORIEN members follow the Total Cancer Care Protocol, operated by M2Gen, a for-profit subsidiary of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Total Cancer Care is a unique approach to studying patients throughout their lifetime and provides a standard system for tracking patients’ molecular, clinical and epidemiological data. This gives clinicians and researchers access to a searchable, growing database of medical information from respected peers that can help them match patients to targeted treatments.

“Teamwork is essential to making progress in the field of cancer research and treatment,” said Jill Kolesar, Pharm.D., administrative director of the Precision Medicine Clinic at Markey. “Through our continued successful partnerships and collaborations, we are learning a lot of valuable information about cancers affecting our families and friends in our own backyard and leading to new initiatives to help Kentuckians with cancer.”

As cancer care becomes more based on genetics versus tumor types, researchers are discovering specific, often-rare mutations that lead to the disease. To develop personalized clinical trials that can target these mutations, ORIEN members pool their resources and contribute to a shared databank. Much of their work focuses on patients with advanced primary or metastatic disease, those with limited treatment options and patients who are likely to develop progressive disease.

Because Total Cancer Care follows patients throughout their life, it allows researchers to anticipate trends or changes in the patient’s disease, and to have patients worked up and ready to immediately enroll in appropriate clinical trials as they become available. It will also help predict which patients may need additional cancer screenings that fall outside of standard national recommendations.

Researchers are not just tracking the patient’s physical treatment, but their mental and emotional needs as well. The goal is to develop markers to predict issues before they happen, anticipating what a patient may need next in their care. For example, if a patient develops a certain type of breast cancer, are they more likely to be diagnosed with depression later on? If so, how can physicians stay ahead of the curve to help keep that patient physically and mentally healthy?

At Markey, adult patients can be eligible for Total Cancer Care if they are 18 years of age or older, have been diagnosed with cancer or are at risk for cancer and if they are willing to participate in research and share information. Pediatric patients may receive treatment through Kentucky Children’s Hospital and/or the UK Markey Cancer Center. These patients can be eligible for Total Cancer Care from birth onward, if they have been diagnosed with cancer or are at risk for cancer, and if they are willing to participate in research and share information.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.