As we continue to engage partner sites throughout the COMPPARE network, we are pleased to continue our COMPPARE Consortium Spotlight in this newsletter edition, which provides insight into the successes of our partner proton and photon centers across the U.S.
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Detroit metro area and one of just 51 centers of its kind in the United States. With 15 locations throughout Michigan and proudly a part of McLaren Health Care, the Karmanos Cancer Network is the largest provider of cancer care and research in the state.
Christian Hyde, M.D., DABR, COMPPARE Site Principal Investigator at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint, and his team have enrolled one of the highest numbers of photon patients among all COMPPARE sites. They have also been tremendously successful in enrolling a large percentage of their proton patients at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center to the Randomized Controlled Trial arm of the proton cohort.
For Dr. Hyde, a personal turning point in patient enrollment for COMPPARE came when he read the results of two other prostate cancer studies – PROFIT and CHHiP – that analyzed eight weeks of standard fractionation radiation therapy (SFRT) versus four weeks of hypofractionated radiotherapy (HFRT).
“The question of shorter courses of radiation has been proven with X-rays,” he explained. “We know that it works and it is safe. We need better radiation and less of it – who wouldn’t want four less weeks of radiation? If this works for protons too, then it has the potential to bless the lives of a lot of men, especially those who need to travel for proton therapy or pay out of pocket. As a result, I’ve been offering the randomized arm of the trial to my patients first.”
Dr. Hyde reports that COMPPARE is a popular study at the proton center as well as at many of their photon sites through the Karmanos Cancer Network. “I am grateful to have such good colleagues in Michigan: research-minded and always trying to bring their best options to their patients,” he related. “We have about ten community sites that could potentially enroll, and lately we’ve seen our more rural locations getting involved – this is really encouraging.”
One challenge to patient accrual that Dr. Hyde has observed is a common one: the denial of proton therapy by privately run Medicare plans. “When patients sign up for an ‘Advantage Plan’ they think they’re getting the best available coverage, but they don’t realize it’s like being in an HMO that can deny potentially life-saving procedures.”
In addition, as Dr. Hyde points out, there is a fear of the unknown among radiation oncologists, who are concerned that proton therapy won’t be as accurate or effective as “tried and true” X-rays.
“Change is hard, and the hardest change is changing your mind when you’ve been doing the same thing for decades and it has worked pretty well, even if it isn’t perfect,” he said. “A large study like COMPPARE may help show that protons are at least as curative and at least as safe, and this might help some doctors have comfort in knowing they aren’t sacrificing anything quality-wise for patients who get proton therapy.”
Fortunately, Dr. Hyde has found that patients don’t seem to need the same convincing when it comes to proton therapy: “Patients aren’t always satisfied with the old way of doing things, especially when it comes to cancer.”
For more information about the Karmanos Cancer Institute, visit https://www.karmanos.org/karmanos.
Our next Consortium Spotlight will feature another active COMPPARE partner. We are grateful to Dr. Hyde and his team for their input and dedicated participation in COMPPARE, and we appreciate all partner sites working so diligently to improve prostate cancer outcomes for men.