Lifespan Cancer Institute

Creating Clinical and Research Excellence in Cancer Care

Cancer treatment evolved rapidly in the last decades. And it started in the laboratory.

The discoveries of the Human Genome Project (1990 – 2003) jumpstarted the development of targeted cancer therapies. Cancer is a group of genetic diseases that result from changes in the genome of cells in the body, leading them to grow uncontrollably. Knowledge of the specific genome mutations that cause a particular cancer can lead to more specific and effective targeted treatments. These treatments may be better tolerated and have fewer side effects compared with standard chemotherapy.

Research conducted at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, Legorreta Cancer Center at Brown University, and at other research labs world-wide has identified novel molecules that kill cancer cells directly or activate the immune system to target malignant cells. They are the basis of new therapies, procedures, and drugs.

Laboratory investigation provides preliminary confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of these new approaches. If studies show favorable results supporting further investigation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the initiation of clinical trials. The FDA then analyzes and reviews the clinical trial results to decide if a new treatment should be approved and made available to the general population. Patients, clinical investigators, basic scientists, academic centers, pharmaceutical industries, and the FDA collaborate to develop these new treatments.

What Are Clinical Trials?

A clinical trial is a research study that uses newly discovered cancer treatments. Patients participate in clinical trials because the standard treatment options for their disease have not worked, or they are unable to tolerate certain side effects.

All clinical trials have patient eligibility criteria, based on factors such as age, sex, type and stage of disease, previous treatment history, and other medical conditions. Eligibility criteria decreases the risk of complications and side effects from new treatments. In addition, diversity of participants is important. This helps to reduce the variation within the study and ensure that the new treatment will benefit a general population.

Patients must agree to the terms of the trial’s protocol and the researchers, doctors, and other health professionals who manage them must follow strict rules set by the FDA. This ensures that participants are treated as safely as possible, and the chances of clinical benefit are maximized.

Clinical trials bring unprecedented advances to the treatment of cancer and can be an integral part of the treatment at any stage of the disease process. The results of these trials inform the direction for new drug and treatment development, bringing hope to future cancer patients.

Clinical Trials Program Overview

Dr. Benedito Carneiro, director of clinical research and cancer drug development, discusses the robust clinical trials program at the Lifespan Cancer Institute. 

Clinical Trials at the Lifespan Cancer Institute

Under the leadership of David Wazer, MD, director of the Lifespan Cancer Institute (LCI), participation in clinical trials increased 260 percent from 2015 through 2019 and has included a greater percentage of people of color. A diverse patient pool is an important part for the success of a clinical trial and is a key focus of the LCI. Three Lifespan physicians, Sheldon Holder, MD, Hina Khan, MD, and Emily Hsu, MD are recipients of the Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Award, funded by Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. These awards aim to increase the diversity of clinical trial volunteers, promote community engagement, and better understanding of clinical trial benefits.

The depth and breadth of Lifespan Cancer Institute clinical research activity is evidenced by the the work of Howard P. Safran, MD, Lifespan’s chief of hematology/oncology, and his team. They have discovered several of the most successful chemotherapy protocols that have set a standard of care worldwide.

In our exploration of the next frontier of cancer research, we recruited Stephanie Graff, MD, nationally acclaimed breast cancer expert and our director of breast oncology. An advocate for her patients and cancer research, Dr. Graff is one of our forward-thinking physician-scientists committed to advancing Lifespan’s high quality, innovative care and delivering exceptional service to patients.

In summer 2021, Abbas El-Sayad Abbas, MD, an internationally esteemed surgeon, joined the Lifespan Cancer Institute as chief of thoracic oncology. Dr. Abbas offers treatments for mediastinal, esophageal, and lung diseases, using a robotic surgical system and minimally invasive procedures that have the advantage of reduced pain and bleeding, minimal scarring, and fewer complications.

At the Legorreta Cancer Center at Brown University, Lifespan Cancer Institute physicians and researchers collaborate with the Brown University Oncology Research Group to develop world-class research programs that bring cancer clinical trials to patients in Rhode Island.

Over the past few years, the Lifespan Cancer Institute has built a world-class clinical trials program with a focus on early phase studies. The Cancer Drug Development program, led by Dr. Benedito Carneiro, has positioned LCI at the forefront of new treatments for cancer while bringing numerous opportunities to Rhode Island and the region. Preliminary results of some of these trials have been presented at international conferences, supporting the development of new treatments emerging from our programs.

fellows at Hasbro Children's Hospital examining images on smartboard

The Boston Globe Cites Rhode Island as Next Cancer Research Hub

The Lifespan Cancer Institute is on track to be destination of choice for quality patient care.

Read the story in The Boston Globe

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The Lifespan Cancer Institute’s clinical research, combined with the basic and translational science research happening at Brown, provides an incredible foundation on which to build Rhode Island into a research and development center. The goal is bringing world-class accessible care, groundbreaking research, and clinical trials to the communities we serve. As Dr. Graff stated to The Boston Globe, “Instead of people from Rhode Island getting a second opinion in Boston, people from Boston will be coming to get their second opinion in Providence.”

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Howard Safran, MD

Cutting-Edge Medical Studies

Research and Clinical Trials

The Lifespan Cancer Institute provides the latest protocols and access to groundbreaking immuno- therapies and emerging cancer treatments. 

Our physicians actively participate in the Brown University Oncology Group, a unique regional clinical trials network that provides highly innovative approaches to cancer care.

Search current clinical trials

Since 2017, the Lifespan Cancer Institute has had a strategic alliance with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to advance cancer treatment and research. Learn more about Lifespan Cancer Institute's partnership with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.