Gundersen Health System receives $15.6 million grant for cancer research

Gundersen Health System and its partners will be able to continue cancer treatment research through a $15.6 million grant. This is the second time the National Cancer Institute has given this award to help patients in Wisconsin.

Gundersen Health System, Marshfield Clinic Health System and ThedaCare are part of the program that is receiving the money. This is the second time the National Cancer Institute has awarded a grant to the Wisconsin National Community Oncology Research program.

“I think what this really says is that Gundersen and its partners have really proved themselves around the country,” said Dr. Kurt Oettel, the cancer center’s director at Gundersen Health System.

The federal agency previously awarded a five-year grant to the Wisconsin cancer clinical trial network.
Before that grant ended in July, Oettel said they had between 100 to 150 clinical trials going on at any given time.

“These are trials that are looking at what’s the standard of care for cancer treatment and can we do better?” Oettel said.

The trials include patients who have anywhere from very early to late-stage cancer. They can try a treatment that would not be offered to them otherwise and help them live longer.

“For many patients, the treatments that we’re offering now are not only more effective but they’re less toxic,” Oettel said.

For example, traditional treatment in a lot of cases has called for chemotherapy, but what they have seen is a large shift to using immunotherapy– using the immune system to fight cancer.

“Patients participating in trials five years ago were some of the first patients to ever receive some of these cutting edge treatments which we’re now using as the standard of care,” Oettel said.

The new six-year grant will help the researchers continue to build on that progress and bring their advancements to more patients.

“This is patients being offered the best possible treatment that we think is available. And it’s the best possible treatment across our county,” Oettel said.

DOettel said that a lot of the funding comes from foundations, like the Gundersen Medical Foundation, to cover research costs. This grant will help add resources that just wouldn’t be available in any other way.

Since 1979, more than 1,100 Gundersen Health System patients have participated in clinical research studies for cancer. More information about these trials can be found on its website.

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