Mercy Health Partners chosen for cancer study


MUSKEGON, Mich. - Cancer patients in West Michigan now have the opportunity to be part of international cancer research.

Mercy Health Partners, with the approval of patients, will begin sending tissue samples to the International Genome Consortium. They are the only hospital in Michigan participating in this world-wide study that is searching for a cure.

It's the largest collaboration yet when it comes to gathering samples and mapping cancer tumors. "Everyone coming together and participating in this and then making it free for everyone to have access to this that is the secret sauce into personalized medicine and getting the right drug to the right patient at the right time," said Dr. Robert Penny with the International Genome Consortium.  He was involved in the year long selection process which ultimately chose Mercy Health Partners as one of their 14 hospitals and the only one in Michigan.

The project is funded by a $21-million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The hope is to collect tissue samples from 500 cancer patients from 20 different types of cancers nationwide.

Cancer patients will be asked if they are willing to share a sample of their tumor for research project. "We have a six page consent form and that has a lot of information in easy to understand language," said Dr. Peter Shireman.  He is a pathologist with Mercy Health who will head the gathering of tissue samples.

All of the patient's information will be kept confidential and the tissue sample will be assigned a number. As a participant, Penny says you will be required to give follow up information for the next 10 years. "The key pieces we want to know going forward are have you had a recurrence. Have you not had a recurrence how much therapy did you get?"

The genetic mapping will also be available on the internet for scientists from around the world to access for discoveries to help in patient care and treatments as well as finding a cure for cancer, "This is the keystone the basis of future therapies and that work will take 10-20 years to unfold," says Penny.

Mercy Health Partners was chosen in part because of its highly regarded cancer center The Johnson Family Center for Cancer Care and also because of the large Dutch population which was under-represented in the study.  

By Valerie Lego