access for cancer patients | Thanks to a new partnership with integrated research organization Circuit Clinical, SSM Health is making it easier and faster for patients to participate in oncology trials and clinical research in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. More than 65,000 cancer patients are treated by the health care system annually, and patients will now be able to participate in oncology trials where they already receive care. This includes communities where clinical trials have historically been unavailable. “This collaboration furthers SSM Health’s Mission of bringing exceptional health care services to all people—especially those most in need—by bringing investigative treatments to our broad network of community-based health settings, while contributing to research that could lead to new medicines and devices becoming more broadly available,” vice president of oncology Dr. George Daneker says.

understanding radiation therapy
Washington University School of Medicine is joining a national network of centers working to understand the biologic effects of radiation therapy. The new radiation oncology center will be named the MicroEnvironment and Tumor Effects of Radiotherapy Center (METEOR). The university received a $7.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the center. Researchers at METEOR will investigate how radiation therapy influences tumor biology and the impact on surrounding immune cells in patients with pancreatic and cervical cancer. As one of five centers in the Radiation Oncology-Biology Integration Network, it will be able to compare the impact of various treatment regimens and hopefully answer long-held questions about radiation therapy.

vaccine research
Saint Louis University is part of a new trial to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and flu. The study will look at whether the two vaccines can be combined into a single shot without affecting the antibody response to either. The trial is being conducted at more than 200 sites across the country. “Since it looks like COVID will be with us for the long haul, just as flu is, it’s important to see if we can combine both vaccines into one shot without compromising immunity of both,” says Dr. Sarah George, professor of infectious diseases and a researcher in the university’s Vaccine Center. “It’s vital that we continue to work to develop combined vaccines that can protect all of us, especially the vulnerable, from these illnesses.”

alzheimer’s advances
New research from Washington University School of Medicine in partnership with Lund University in Sweden has demonstrated that a simple blood test may be as effective at identifying the molecular signs of Alzheimer’s disease as cerebrospinal fluid tests. The test works by measuring the levels of Alzheimer’s proteins in the blood and is a less expensive and invasive alternative to the brain scans and spinal taps currently used to diagnose the disease. It also can detect signs of Alzheimer’s before symptoms start. “The accuracy of this blood test now enables us to diagnose the presence of Alzheimer’s disease pathology with a single blood sample,” says co-senior author Dr. Randall J. Bateman, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology. “This advance will increase accurate diagnoses for many patients.”