National Oncology Program Office
Cancer will cause 606,880 deaths in the United States of America and 1,762,450 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2019. There are about 50,000 new cancer cases diagnosed and treated in VA each year. There are about 450,000 Veterans alive with a prior cancer who are receiving care from VA.
VA National Oncology ProgramOur Mission:
To improve the lives of Veterans with cancer through Precision Medicine by implementing a learning healthcare model to quickly transition new knowledge into clinical practice and to maximize learning from clinical practice.
To ensure that Veterans have easy access to reliable, excellent cancer prevention, detection and treatment services.
Precision Oncology Program
The VA National Precision Oncology Program (NPOP) began as a research pilot that focused on Veterans with non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer. When the pilot ended and a national program was created which became NPOP.
NPOP’s purpose is to help doctors provide precise cancer care for Veterans, based on their genetic profiles, and aid in their access to new therapies through clinical trials. NPOP has a research element through which patients can allow their clinical, genetic, and imaging data be shared with the VA Cancer Registry. Researchers will use this data to help advance cancer care in the VA. All research samples are coded and cannot be traced back to a specific patient.
As participating Veterans are diagnosed, VA doctors take a specimen of their tumor and send it to laboratories for targeted genomic sequencing, a process that determines the DNA sequence of genes known to play a role in cancer. This discovers different mutations, or changes, that are causing the cancer to grow. The benefit to Veterans is their medications can be are targeted to those mutations, and to take part in clinical trials of new drugs targeted toward their specific mutations. Another benefit is to match drugs that are most effective in targeting cancer which cause the fewest possible side effects for the patient. As of early 2021, more than 18,000 tumor samples from 126 different facilities have been sent for testing.
MOTB (Molecular Oncology Tumor Board)
This a monthly call for VA Oncologists to meet and review cases, treatments, and share new information. The information is then used to more effectively treat Veterans with cancer. All cases reviewed contain no personally identifying information.
PHASER – PGx Testing
In Spring 2019, Sanford Health teamed up with the VA to offer genetic testing, known as pharmacogenomic (PGx), through a program called PHASER. PHASER stands for: Pharmacogenomic Testing for Veterans. Current VA patients can receive this testing at no cost. This test may help identify the best medications for a patient and those which may have fewer side effects. A diagnosis of cancer is not required to participate. A single tube of blood is drawn and sent to the lab for testing. The results are returned in about two weeks and entered into the Veterans health record, so doctors can use this information to select the best course of treatment.
Veterans with cancer can volunteer for clinical trials and/or consent to have their doctor share their clinical, genetic, and imaging data be stored in the VA Cancer Registry. Here, researchers will use this information to help advance cancer care treatments for Veterans with cancer.
Cancer clinical trials are research studies where Veterans with cancer can volunteer to take part in testing new drugs or procedures. Clinical trials are available for all stages of cancer, not just those with advanced cancer or who have not responded to other treatment options. Many of the successful cancer treatments we have now are the result of past clinical trials. Through clinical trials, doctors determine what new treatments are safe, effective, and if they are better than current treatments. They also help find new ways to detect and prevent cancer. They may also help improve the quality of life for Veterans during and after cancer treatment.
During a clinical trial, you give approval to add information about your cancer, the treatment and cancer mutations to the VA Cancer Registry. This information helps doctors learn more about cancer and how to improve care for Veterans. Clinical trials are key to making progress in the treatment of cancer.