Woerner and Finnegan Family Fund for Clinical Trial Advancement
To Improve Patient Navigation for Clinical Trials
Four surgeries on his abdomen and lungs and twelve months of intensive chemotherapy weren’t enough to stop the metastatic colorectal cancer John Woerner faced. Desperately searching for hope, John listened intently when his oncologist — a leader at a top NCI-designated cancer center — proposed that he join an immunotherapy-focused clinical trial.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a potential treatment's efficacy and side effects. They also give patients another treatment pathway and the opportunity to contribute to life-saving science. Clinical trials are essential to developing new treatments and cures, and every FDA-approved therapy was once part of one. It’s impossible to overstate their importance.
That’s why John was shocked by his oncologist’s next words: “If you can come up with a short list of clinical trials, I would be happy to review them with you.” All John had to do was comb through nearly half a million clinical trials, determine for himself which may be best suited to his diagnosis, and — if they were open to participants — navigate the dizzying complexities of enrollment.
John took on the challenge, and by pulling together all the insights and expertise he could access, was fortunate to take part in a clinical trial. Having lived that experience, John believes there is a better and easier way for people to access clinical trials, and that’s why he established the Woerner and Finnegan Family Fund for Clinical Trial Advancement with the national nonprofit Colorectal Cancer Alliance in December 2021.
There Is A Better Way
In the search for a clinical trial, John encountered an odyssey filled with complexity — a disorienting sea of options, details buried in mountains of clinical information, and long travels to meet with oncologists. Unfortunately, John’s experience is common. Among patients with fewer resources than him, the challenges can be overwhelming.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say it's likely they would participate in a clinical trial if recommended by their doctor, yet 80% of clinical trials fail to reach enrollment goals on time, and more than half of trials are canceled due to insufficient participation. That means lost progress and, more importantly, lost lives.
The Woerner and Finnegan Family Fund for Clinical Trial Advancement was first established to support the Alliance’s 2022 Clinical Trial Think Tank, an extraordinary group that produced comprehensive recommendations to improve clinical trial access across the United States. Now, the Fund seeks supporters to implement many of those findings, including:
- Enhancing and augmenting clinical trial navigation services provided by the Alliance
- Improving staff competency through robust training
- Updating clinical trial education resources
- Strengthening the Alliance’s clinical trial finder in its BlueHQ patient support hub
- Testing messages to raise clinical trials awareness, promote navigation support, and increase patient understanding
- Piloting community-based partnerships focused on navigation with Alliance-provided support and training.
Your support will help patients and caregivers find a better way to clinical trials.
At the Alliance’s Fingertips
John came to know the Alliance through a referral from a former work colleague. The connection came at a pivotal time, and the Alliance proved invaluable in John’s search for clinical trials. Now, as a member of the Board himself, John carries a unique view of the challenges in clinical trial navigation and the Alliance’s potential to improve the experience.
“No one has looked at the system end-to-end,” John says. “There is great expertise at each point in the clinical trials chain, but the process is not designed to help patients get through it in a patient-centric manner. We are an alliance, so we can be that intelligent navigator for patients to access a number of resources to help them in their journey.”
The need is urgent. No one should be left to navigate clinical trials alone, not when more than 52,000 Americans die from this disease each year.
“I was fortunate that I had the resources and support to fly to five other leading national cancer centers, take medical leave, run flat-out for six weeks, while other people may have jobs that don’t accommodate their leave, kids that need care, lack financial resources for expensive flights, or don’t know who to call,” John says. ‘We can, as the Alliance, help with that. The information is out there, but you have to find it yourself. A life-saving clinical trial could be at the fingertips of an Alliance patient navigator to help better guide a cancer patient.”
John is now grateful for his recent clean scans and bloodwork, which are currently showing no evidence of cancer, and he is dedicated to the Alliance's mission of ending colorectal cancer in our lifetime. To improve access to clinical trials, a better way is at the fingertips of the Alliance — The Woerner and Finnegan Family Fund for Clinical Trial Advancement is asking for your help to reach it.