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Swedish Medical Center research advancing global healthcare

HCA Healthcare Research Institute supports trials in Oncology, Orthopedics, Neurosciences and Cardiovascular

July 19, 2023

Imagine receiving a vaccine, personalized to your specific body chemistry, that can treat brain cancer. It might sound like the story line of a futuristic sci-fi movie, but research that was done at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado is helping to make this idea a reality. Not only does the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center offer comprehensive cancer care, from screening and diagnosis through treatment and survivorship, the institute also houses a division of a national research program: HCA Healthcare Research Institute (HRI). Alicia Novak, PhD, MBA, director of research for HCA Healthcare’s Continental Division, explains, “The HCA Healthcare Research Institute is part of the multidisciplinary research efforts of HCA Healthcare. We perform research for multiple specialties including neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics and cardiology with the list continuing to grow. Our Continental Division offices are located at Swedish Medical Center, but we work with hospitals throughout our region and benefit from the larger, international HCA Healthcare organization to deepen our understanding of these advancements.”

Neuro oncology research at Swedish Medical Center

For nearly a decade, Dr. Novak has worked with Swedish Medical Center providers through clinical research trials, mostly to advance treatment for grade four gliomas (a type of brain tumor). “These tumors are among the hardest to treat and the patient doesn’t have a lot of time to live once they are diagnosed, so we have been working to find solutions through both drug and device trials for patients who are newly diagnosed and for patients who have recurrent disease,” Dr. Novak said. “When a provider has identified a patient who would benefit from an experimental treatment, we take a look at their records and see if they might qualify for a study. If so, we partner with the doctor and staff to fulfill the study needs.” The research Dr. Novak leads is done in concert with the standard of care treatment and she and her team work to line up trial requirements with a patient’s care plan. This minimizes additional time in the hospital or clinic that may place added stress on the patient.

In the case of the previously mentioned cancer vaccine trial, a company was looking to develop a personalized vaccine that could extend survival of patients with newly diagnosed and recurrent glioblastoma brain cancer. “We were one of several sites in the US who participated in this trial, which is in the process of being FDA reviewed,” Dr. Novak said. According to a press release in November of 2022, the company is currently working on preparations to apply for regulatory approval, “Glioblastoma is the most common and most lethal form of primary brain cancer.  Standard of care (SOC) treatments have been virtually unchanged for nearly 20 years.  With SOC treatments, patients typically survive for only about 15-17 months from diagnosis, with the tumor recurring at about 6-8 months from diagnosis and the patients typically surviving for about 7-9 months after recurrence.  Five-year survival from diagnosis is only about 5%... We are excited to see the meaningful survival extensions in glioblastoma patients treated … in this trial – particularly in the “long tail” of the survival curve, where we see more than double the survival rates as with existing standard of care,” the release states.

World-class cancer program, close to home

In addition to the glioma trials Dr. Novak’s team has supported, the team is doing important research for treatments such as ischemic & hemorrhagic stroke therapy, aneurysms and orthopedic devices. They also are supporting work being done to create early cancer detection tests. This research, which has the potential to change healthcare across the world, is being done right at Swedish Medical Center. Patients who are eligible and interested in participating in this study provide blood samples and data about their health. The team at Swedish collects and manages these samples, which are then being used to develop a blood test able to detect a variety of cancers, even at the earliest stages.

A Hampden Avenue landmark for more than a century, Swedish continues to expand its services and cancer care offerings to achieve the highest levels of quality and innovation. The hospital is expanding its cancer service to open the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center cancer pavilion. The cancer pavilion houses, reorganizes and streamlines the cancer services at Swedish including the HRI program. The well-equipped research space houses a lab and is close to provider offices, allowing for easy collaboration and teamwork. “We work with individuals who are really highly motivated and driven and know that research is part of growing medicine. By being close to them, physically, we can collaborate more seamlessly. It is a benefit for us and to them to work closely like this,” Dr. Novak said. To learn more about Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center, visit us online.

July 19, 2023
Swedish Medical Center

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