TMH set to begin cancer clinical trials next year

Cancer patients in the Big Bend area will no longer have to travel great distances for clinical trials starting January 2016.

National clinical trials for breast and lung cancer patients will begin at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH).

Although the cancer center opened in 2011, adding clinical trials is a way the cancer center hopes to implement methods to keep cancer patients healthier. The partnership with the University of Florida Health expanded, allowing the new clinical trials to begin. The trials will test new drugs and treatment methods, giving hope to people who would not have access to lifesaving drugs, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Dr. Karen Russell, one of the new physicians at Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center, is eager to lead the national cancer clinical trials in Tallahassee.

"Having a clinical trials program is a must for quality cancer care,” Russell told the Democrat. “Every chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or adjunctive therapy that we do today is based on trials done before that patients enrolled and participated in. To get new knowledge on how to beat cancer, research is a must to drive those improvements."

Hospital officials say TMH is the only cancer program in the region to offer hematology/oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology and gynecologic oncology.

Fourth-year nursing student, Ashanti Booker from Atlanta, Ga., is pleased with Tallahassee's decision to help advance cancer research.

"Cancer affects everyone, even those who have never been diagnosed,” Booker said. “It is a topic that is dear to everyone's heart. No one should die from cancer in 2015. Cancer is treated and cured because of new ideas like the trials. These trials are going to be very important and I am excited to see what new innovations will be put into action."

According to, it is difficult to predict what impact cancer will have on not only the patient, but their families, friends and colleagues. Son of breast cancer survivor, Kellen Nelson, knows personally how difficult it is to feel helpless, yet hopeful, as his mother went through her diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment.  

"I'm very grateful that my mom caught the cancer early and was able to beat it. This is possible because of research centers like this," Nelson said. "Opening a local clinical trial opens up endless alternatives and possibilities for an individual diagnosed with cancer. Not only does the center give hope to the diagnosed, it also creates more job opportunities in the community. A cure for the world, as well as a cure for the community."

For more information about the cancer clinical trials contact Julie Campbell, RN, CTR at 850-431-5424 or Theresa Shannon, CRC at 850-431-5566.