Area health providers have been awarded two National Cancer Institute grants, one for $5.6 million and another for $3.2 million, that will provide patients in Louisiana and the Gulf South with more access to clinical trials and advanced cancer treatment.

A Community Oncology Research Program grant of $5.6 million over five years was presented to the LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, with the Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in Baton Rouge and the LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport as collaborators in the program.

Meanwhile, Ochsner Health System has been awarded an NCORP grant valued at $3.2 million over five years. Ochsner is the only institution in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to receive an NCORP grant in the Community Site category. Only 53 of the grants were awarded nationally.

The LSU/Mary Bird Perkins grant also is expected to expand cancer prevention, screening and survivorship clinical trials to improve early diagnosis and treatment as well as help patients cope with the extended process of getting back to their pre-cancer lives.

Dr. Augusto Ochoa, director of the LSUHSC New Orleans Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, said the collaboration will better connect cancer care resources to patients.

The grant will combine the strengths and experiences of the three centers to bring more National Cancer Institute clinical trials to Louisiana cancer patients, said Linda Lee, administrator of Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.

“Through this effort, we will reach about 80 percent of the state, including the most rural and urban areas. This means fewer patients will experience the hardships of traveling out of state for the most advanced clinical trials; it will keep families closer together,” she said.

The collaborative effort is one of only 12 of its kind in the country to serve as a Minority-Based NCI Community Oncology Research Program.

Ochoa said the collaboration is also “a major step in addressing the health disparities caused by cancer among our citizens, especially minorities, and establishes new opportunities for cancer care in the region.”

Dr. Jyotsna Fuloria, of the Ochsner Cancer Institute, will serve as the principal investigator and site director for the Ochsner NCORP award.

“This is a continuation of our efforts to provide access to cutting-edge clinical trials for cancer patients,” Fuloria said.