OU Health doubling cancer trials thanks to American Rescue Plan program

OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center plans to double the size of the clinical trials program through funding from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan.

Stephenson Cancer Center, received funding for two initiatives, receiving about $11 million total to double its Phase 1 clinical trials and expand its translational labs.

Phase 1 clinical trials test drugs that are given to humans for the first time. Such trials require strict protocols, advanced equipment and highly trained health care professionals.

Stephenson Cancer Center currently offers about 40 different Phase 1 clinical trials to an average of 200 patients each year. By doubling the program to approximately 80 trials and 400-500 patients, Stephenson will accelerate the development of promising new drugs.

By doubling its Phase 1 clinical trials, called the Oklahoma TSET Phase 1 Program, Stephenson Cancer Center can provide innovative, early-stage drugs to many more Oklahomans who have been diagnosed with cancer.

“We recognized that our patients had a greater need for Phase 1 clinical trials than we had the resources to provide, so our vision has been to double the capacity of our Phase 1 unit,” said Robert Mannel, M.D., director of Stephenson Cancer Center. “In doing so, we will be in the top five largest Phase 1 clinical trial centers in the country.”

This growth will in turn amplify Stephenson Cancer Center’s Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials that further test a drug’s effectiveness in larger groups of people.

Mannel said doubling the Phase 1 program will also allow Stephenson Cancer Center to offer clinical trials that test drugs for other conditions, such as diabetes and memory disorders, in collaboration with campus partners like OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center and the Oklahoma Center for Geroscience and Healthy Brain Aging. Drugs developed at other institutions or companies could also be studied at Stephenson with its increased capacity.

The center will receive over $3 million to invest in the necessary infrastructure, technology, and personnel to double the Phase 1 clinical trials program.

“Giving all Oklahomans access to clinical trials in cancer as well as other health conditions will improve the outcomes for our state’s population that is unfortunately highly afflicted by cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and dementia,” said Mary Beth Humphrey, M.D., Ph.D., interim vice president for research at the OU Health Sciences Center.