Singing River gets $3M stimulus grant

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It's a grant that will help the Singing River Health System continue cutting edge work in the research and treatment of cancer. It was one of 12,000 grants the National Institute of Health in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute has awarded under the president's stimulus package. It's putting South Mississippi on the map as a hub for cancer research and treatment.

"It's makes it very rewarding and more fun really to continue to practice medicine when you feel like you may be moving the ball forward, in terms of knowledge," said Dr. William Burleson, a Radiation Oncologist.

Thanks to a five year grant for nearly $3 million, the Singing River Health System will continue to be at the forefront of discoveries in the treatment of cancer. This grant is a continuation of a five year grant it recently wrapped up.

With it, the center has furthered its research, community outreach and navigator program which gets patients to and from their treatments free of charge. The new grant will help take that program to another level.

Grant Director at Singing River Dr. Maggie Clarkson said, "We recently expanded into full time clinical services at the Ocean Springs Hospital with the cancer center. This allows us to expand our navigation to full time over there as well as here."

The center has worked to maintain top of the-line radiation therapy equipment for more targeted treatments.

Its research covers some 48 different types of cancer and is being used as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas, associated with the Human Genome Project.

Dr. Burleson said, "A lot of treatment will be very similar. There maybe an additional drug associated with the study that maybe the patient wouldn't otherwise be getting."

"When we put a patient on study almost all studies require now that we send a sample of the patient's cancer tissue into one of the major labs and they do some additional testing on that," Clarkson said.

This time around they already have 128 patients that are undergoing treatment.

Clarkson said, "We're able to do this locally. We don't have to have our patients go to a large center some place 100, 300 miles away."

With each patient treated, the center hopes to get one step closer to finding a cure. As part of the grant, the center must increase the number of patients in its study by five percent each year.

Dr. Clarkson says it was the first health system in the state to be awarded such a grant through the National Institute of Health.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.