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More cancer treatment options opening to veterans thanks to new partnership

Leo Shane III | Military Times

WASHINGTON — Veterans battling cancer could have easier access to cutting-edge treatments and experimental trials under a new partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and National Cancer Institute announced Tuesday.

Department officials say the arrangement will not only provide better health care options to veterans but also hopefully provide new advancements for researchers working on cancer treatment breakthroughs.

“By increasing enrollment in these trials, VA and Veterans will contribute to important cancer research,” acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke said in a statement. “This will not only help our veterans, but also advance cancer care for all Americans and people around the world.”

Initial work will start at VA facilities in 12 different states spread across the country. Officials from the institute will establish an infrastructure for the federal sites to participate in their clinical trials, while VA officials will make changes to its operational rules and goals to bring them in line with the trial work.

Department officials noted that the VA health care system already conducts significant research on cancer prevention and treatment, but face challenges linking that work to externally funded trials.

Organizers are optimistic that the collaboration will help highlight particular challenges that veterans face, and whether there are specific treatments that are more beneficial to that population.

They also pledged that special attention will be given to minority veteran patients, who “often have less access to new treatments and are not as well represented in clinical trials” across the country.

The new NCI and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trials Enrollment — dubbed NAVIGATE — is a three-year agreement that will also establish practices and to help additional VA medical centers enroll more veterans in cancer trials.

More information on the partnership is available on the department’s website.

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