U.S. Military Health Program Provides Coverage for NCI Clinical Trials
Effective today, the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) TRICARE health care program and NCI have renewed their interagency agreement to provide TRICARE beneficiaries with more options for cancer care and greater access to advances in cancer prevention and treatment through clinical trials. The decision is based on a successful 10-year DoD-NCI demonstration project in which more than 800 members of the armed forces and their families have participated in NCI trials.
NCI Director Dr. John Niederhuber concurred: "One of NCI's highest priorities is to ensure that our latest science - new treatments and new prevention methods - is available to all patients in the communities where they live. Our agreement with TRICARE helps advance that goal." He also expressed hope that TRICARE's actions will serve as a model for other health insurers to add or expand their beneficiaries' coverage of NCI- and other NIH-sponsored clinical studies.
TRICARE's benefit allows the program's 9.2 million beneficiaries to take part in phase II and phase III NCI-sponsored cancer clinical trials, including studies for prevention, screening, early detection, and treatment. All medical care for trial participants will be provided by Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) or civilian providers participating in NCI-sponsored studies. In a press release, TRICARE noted that there are more than 2,000 sites - including MTFs, civilian providers, and comprehensive cancer centers - that offer cancer trials.
The agreement also allows all DoD MTFs and authorized TRICARE providers involved in oncology care to apply for participation in NCI clinical trial protocols for adult and pediatric cancers according to the usual NCI participation review process.
"Through this agreement, all TRICARE beneficiaries will have access to some of the most promising advances in cancer research through NCI-sponsored clinical trials throughout the country," added U.S. Army Major General Elder Granger, deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity.
Retired Army Sergeant Major Michael Adams participated in the DoD-NCI demonstration project after he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer two years ago at age 47. "I had no knowledge of clinical trials before I was diagnosed and started searching the Internet," he explained. "When I searched the term 'clinical trials,' that ultimately led me to the TRICARE Web site which described the DoD-NCI demonstration project."
Sergeant Adams was referred to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where he entered a trial examining alternative methods of surgical anesthesia. "This program saved my life," he said. "When I first started in the program and came in to see the surgeon at Sloan-Kettering, he realized the severity of my diagnosis and literally cleared his schedule to make me his next patient."
He recalled: "I've never experienced such care in life, and I'm a combat vet who has had multiple surgeries in the past. I was treated at one of the world's leading cancer treatment centers. They are very supportive to patients and their families. They even spent time with my wife to explain my treatment and recovery, which is a very important part of my care."
Sergeant Adams is very pleased about TRICARE's decision to continue partnering with NCI. "I would highly recommend the program and clinical trial participation to other military personnel and their families," he said.