CUTTING-EDGE TREATMENT FOR HAWAI ‘ I ’ S PATIENTS RIGHT AT HOME
My passion is ensuring that cancer patients in Hawai ‘ i have access to the same cutting-edge treatments through early phase trials as cancer patients on the mainland . A center where these trials can be safely performed is of paramount importance to reduce the burden of cancer in our state .”
SENATOR BREENE HARIMOTO
The Ho ‘ ōla : Early Phase Clinical Research Center
( EPCRC ) was near and dear to Hawai ‘ i State Senator Breene Harimoto ’ s heart . Sadly , he will not see it to completion , as his long battle with pancreatic cancer ended in June 2020 .
IMPACT ON HAWAI ‘ I ’ S CANCER PATIENTS
Early phase trials are essential for patients with cancers that are particularly difficult to treat , or patients who have failed to respond adequately to standard therapies or previous clinical trials .
The EPCRC project — the first of its kind in Hawai ‘ i — in collaboration with the Hawai ‘ i Cancer Consortium , will provide access to novel , cutting-edge , early phase clinical trials . The EPCRC will allow cancer patients to receive such treatments here in Hawai ‘ i , avoiding the time and expense of traveling to the mainland .
“ I was qualified for an early phase clinical trial on the mainland to treat my metastatic breast cancer . I ’ m a young mother with four kids , the thought of uprooting my family was not an option , taking the kids out of school and financially , was impossible . However , if there was a clinical trial available here on island , I would definitely participate .”
SARAH , BREAST CANCER PATIENT , AGE 35
SENATOR BREENE HARIMOTO , LOWER RIGHT , WITH HIS WIFE CHERYL , AND UH CANCER CENTER ’ S DEPUTY DIRECTOR , JOE W . RAMOS , AND DIRECTOR , RANDALL HOLCOMBE , ( L-R ) AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF HAWAI ‘ I STATE LEGISLATURE , JANUARY 2017 .
Currently , Hawai ‘ i ’ s cancer patients who are eligible for early phase or phase 1 trials must travel to the mainland to participate , often for several months , separated from family and friends . The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions make participation even more challenging .
Additionally , roughly 90 % of clinical trial participants are Caucasian , leaving Asian and Pacific Island groups underrepresented in the research . When research involves a large proportion of a group of similar people , findings regarding efficacy and side effect profiles may not end up applying to everyone else . Therefore , it is critical for cancer patients representing Hawai ‘ i ’ s unique diverse populations be able to participate in these trials .
“ There are already multiple stressors for patients undergoing cancer treatments . Obtaining new treatments should not be one of them .”
JAMI A . FUKUI , MD BREAST MEDICAL ONCOLOGIST , HAWAI ‘ I PACIFIC HEALTH AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR , UH CANCER CENTER