Cancer patients will no longer have to travel hundreds of miles to participate in clinical trials of cutting-edge drugs under a new program that Spartanburg Regional Hospital officials say will revolutionize the way drugs are brought to market nationwide.
Dr. Timothy Yeatman, president of the Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute, said the new program, called the Gibbs Health Institute, also will “democratize” clinical trials, making them available to people who can’t afford to travel to try experimental treatments.
“We’re going to have a paradigm shift in the way drugs are developed in this country, and it starts right here in Spartanburg,” Yeatman said in a press conference Tuesday announcing the new program.
Philanthropists Jimmy and Marsha Gibbs presented a check for $250,000 to start the program. “It’s probably going to be eventually a $25 million goal,” said Jimmy Gibbs, who made his fortune liquidating textile mills. “Marsha and I will get it kicked off with a pledge of $250,000.”
Yeatman has been quietly working with more than 100 hospitals across the country in setting up a network that will make the concept possible, said Bruce Holstien, Spartanburg Regional CEO.
The new institute will use a sophisticated data warehousing system to make electronic medical records available in real time in order to quickly match patients with trials they may be suited for, Yeatman said.
“Patients have a very short window of opportunity once they’re diagnosed with cancer, particularly advanced cancer,” he said.
The network, he believes, will attract large pharmaceutical companies to participate, with some of them setting up shop in Spartanburg, which he believes could create up to 100 high-paying technical jobs.
“Every week we’re putting together a jigsaw puzzle of very complicated approaches that will allow us to do something that has never been accomplished before,” Yeatman said.
More details on the program will be released over the next few weeks, hospital officials said.