A large grant will allow the St. Joseph Mercy Health System to continue and expand upon their cancer-care treatments.

St. Joe’s is receiving a $19.3-million dollar grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program to lead the Michigan Cancer Research Consortium. This is almost twice what the Health System received during the last grant cycle, 5 years ago. Executive Director of Oncology and Research, Beth LaVasseur, said this reward was the product of St. Joseph’s 13-hospital consortium performing so well. Saint Joseph Mercy Livingston and the Brighton Medical Center will directly benefit from the grant. LaVasseur said that at any given time they have 100 clinical trials open investigating a wide variety of cancer treatments, including new treatments, like genomic mapping. Traditionally in cancer care, diseases were treated at the body site the tumor grew in. LaVasseur explains that genomic mapping has changed this approach. Doctors take a sample of the tumor, map the genomics, and look at the mutations that are driving the tumor to grow. Then the mutation is matched with a drug that could potentially keep it from growing, often from a different part of the body than where the tumor is found, unlike with traditional treatments. This would be like using drugs used for breast cancer with lung cancer, or vice versa. LaVasseur said that it is very important for the mapping to be done under closely monitored trials so they know exactly what works.

This grant will make that easier by continuing to allow St. Joe’s to provide cancer care to local patients close to home. LaVasseur says that they believe care is best provided in the community people live in. By not requiring patients to drive to Ann Arbor or Detroit, they can more easily continue to work and be with their family during trying times. Thirty staff are currently funded under the grant, with LaVasseur stating they are gearing up to hire additional staff and expand their capabilities as early as this week.(MK)