Alliance brings West Michigan patients the latest in experimental research

PHOENIX, Ariz. - July 27, 2010 - An affiliate of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) will provide cancer patients in West Michigan opportunities to access new drugs to fight their disease, according to an agreement announced today.

Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), an affiliate of TGen, is joining with Spectrum Health and Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan to develop a Phase I clinical trial program.

The program will be the link between the lab and clinical research involving patients, allowing faster, close-to-home enhanced access to potentially life-saving diagnostic and treatment options for cancer and other clinical conditions.

Phase I clinical trials are initial studies to determine the actions of drugs in humans, identify the side effects associated with increasing doses, and gain early evidence of effectiveness. TGen has had such a program in the Phoenix area since 2005.

"The ultimate focus of VARI's translational research program is always on the patient," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Research Director of both TGen and VARI. "Our goal is to move scientific discoveries as quickly as possible into clinical diagnostics and treatments. VARI's emphasis on precision medicine, joining with physicians and scientists at VARI's Phoenix-based affiliate, TGen, makes it possible to target specific problems in the treatment of individual patients."

The partnership will be an efficient way of conducting translational research, where discoveries in the lab make their way to the bedside through human research trials. VARI provides expertise in lab research and clinical trials, and Spectrum Health and Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan provide access to a large population of patients plus the clinical care and expertise necessary to conduct clinical trials with patients.

"This will be a great resource for cancer patients in West Michigan. It will give them access to experimental treatments that otherwise might not be available regionally," said Matt Van Vranken, Executive Vice President, Spectrum Health System and President Spectrum Health Hospital Group. "As we develop the program it also will provide an opportunity for patients with other clinical conditions to gain access to cutting-edge experimental treatments."

The Phase I program will be housed in the Spectrum Health Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion where a dedicated comprehensive outpatient unit is expected to be completed by June of 2011. It will be staffed with medical and research personnel who administer experimental treatments, monitor patients, track patients' progress and collect trial data.

The first Phase I trials could begin in the next few months in temporary quarters provided by Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan at their office in the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion. Physicians from Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan will play an active role in the clinical trials.

"We are seeing over 3,100 newly diagnosed patients each year at Spectrum Health alone and a number of these patients could benefit from the research conducted through this new program," said Mark Campbell, MD, MHA, of Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan and Executive Director of the Spectrum Health Regional Cancer Network. "Our group of 16 physicians is excited to be able to offer patients this next level of care."

The initiative also will reunite two former colleagues. Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, the Physician-in-Chief and Director of the Translational Drug Development Division of TGen, will serve as interim physician-in-chief, teaming up with Timothy J. O'Rourke, MD, who is the Betz Family Endowed Chair for Cancer Research at Spectrum Health. Working together, the pair has produced significant results in the field of pancreatic cancer research.

"Patient participation in clinical trials is an absolutely indispensible part of improving the care for patients with cancer," said Dr. Von Hoff. "Although currently only about 3% of eligible patients nationally participate in clinical trials, research shows that many more patients would choose to participate if given the opportunity. This program will serve as a boon to the cancer patients of West Michigan, and, in addition, will strengthen and quicken the progress of clinical research on the Medical Mile. It is a privilege to be a part of this initiative."

Spectrum Health usually has about 300 phase II and phase III clinical cancer trials underway. Last year Spectrum Health earned full accreditation from the prestigious Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs.


About Spectrum Health
Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, a collection of eight hospitals and more than 140 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group, mmpc® and West Michigan Heart-physician groups totaling more than 400 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with nearly 580,000 members. Spectrum Health's 16,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care. The organization provided $79.4 million in community benefit during its 2009 fiscal year. In 2010, Spectrum Health was named a Top 10 Health System by Thomson Reuters.

Media Contact:
Bruce Rossman
Media Relations Manager
(616) 391-3706
[email protected]


About Van Andel Institute
Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. VARI, the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. VARI is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) of Phoenix, Arizona. For more information see:

Media Contact:
Joe Gavan
Vice President, Communications and External Relations
(616) 234-5390
[email protected]


About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, visit:

Media Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
[email protected]

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