Experienced and supportive doctors, clinical trial recommendations, and a stellar consultative team form the foundation of Cincinnati Cancer Advisors (CCA), offering fountains of hope for those diagnosed with cancer.

But what if cancer could be discovered and treated long before it progresses at all? That’s CCA’s newest mission. 

Early Detection

“There are several emerging tests that can detect both cancers in their initial stages and the genetic mutations known to cause certain cancers,” says Jillian Hunt, CCA’s nurse practitioner. Galleri, a test pioneered by GRAIL, an innovative health care company, can identify up to 50 types of cancer, oftentimes at an early stage when they can still be cured. It’s available to anyone who wants to order it.

“The GRAIL test is a blood test that looks for early circulating cancer cells in the blood,” Hunt explains. “For those who are at high risk and have a strong family history of cancer, it adds another level of surveillance to potentially catch a cancer at an earlier stage.”

According to GRAIL, 71% of cancer deaths are caused by cancers not commonly screened for. Galleri is intended to complement, not replace, regular cancer screenings, the company notes. 

Improving Treatment Options

For those who are currently battling cancer, CCA takes a close look at their imaging results, biopsy reports and clinical notes to formulate a recommendation for a treatment plan.

They’ve been working with Natera, a company that monitors the impact of immunotherapy in cancer patients undergoing treatment. There is also a blood test developed by Guardant Health that can provide earlier detection of relapse for survivors of colorectal cancer. 

“They’re finding more targetable mutations that have treatments that are associated with those mutations,” Hunt says. “We’re getting further and further away from blanket-treating a diagnosis.”

Compassion & Concern

Cincinnati Cancer Advisors was founded by Dr. Bill Barrett, co-director of the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center. The idea came from seeing patient cases where a diagnosis or recommended treatment plan appeared questionable, perhaps due to an inadequate amount of time spent on the patient’s case. 

Barrett’s vision was a nonprofit organization — not affiliated with any hospital network — that could provide a second opinion for cancer patients and their families free of charge. And that vision is now a reality thanks to the generosity of private donors, with CCA committed to filling in the gaps in cancer care so that each patient has more medical professionals spending more time on their case.

“We didn’t want to be a program that was just available to people who could afford it. We wanted to help Cincinnati, period,” Hunt says. “The point of the program is that you get a platinum-level review of your entire case no matter who you are.”

Once the review is completed, the CCA team compiles the information and makes recommendations to the treating physicians and oncologists. 

“The first time that a patient meets with a medical oncologist … they might get an hour with them,” Hunt says. “An hour is nowhere near enough time for any human being to process a cancer diagnosis.”

CCA oncologists block two hours for each patient they see. They spend an additional four to six hours on each case, making sure all of the patients’ and their families’ questions are answered.

On top of the monetary and physical costs of treatment for cancer patients and their families, the emotional cost of navigating a diagnosis and treatment is incalculable. 

“Doing research on your own is perilous at best,” says Steve Abbott, CCA’s executive director. He has battled prostate cancer for eight years.

“My journey with CCA started as a patient. It’s really hard to describe the value of that extra two hours,” Abbott says. 

“Even though I’ve recently added a medical oncologist to my team, I still have Jill, Dr. Leming and Dr. Jazieh that are checking in on my case. They’re researching potential clinical trials for me. They’re consulting with my medical oncologist.” 

For Abbott, it’s the compassion, concern, and care that sets Cincinnati Cancer Advisors apart from the centers of excellence he traveled to for a second opinion. 

“At my first visit to Cincinnati Cancer Advisors, I got a 23-page written report with recommendations that could be complementary to my quality of life. I haven’t gotten that anywhere else,” Abbott says. 

Yes, thanks to CCA, those dreaded words “We found cancer” can become “We found a clinical trial you’re eligible for,”“We found a treatment specific for your mutation,” or even “We found cancer before it spreads.” And as genetic tests and treatments for cancer become more advanced, so does our likelihood in winning the battle against it.

If you or a loved one have cancer, schedule a free appointment for a second opinion at cincinnaticanceradvisors.org. Or check out their podcast, “CCA Medical Minute,” posted each Wednesday on their website.