Major health news for people who are fighting cancer in northwestern Pennsylvania.

They will soon have expanded opportunities to take part in clinical research trials, and do so right at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center - Erie.

With a check for $180,000, the first installment of a $3-million dollar commitment from Hamot Health Foundation, the clinical cancer research team will be able to enroll more patients.  

Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center said, "Patients absolutely want the most innovative treatment, but sometimes before it's FDA approved, it's complex and it requires a lot of blood draws and trips to check the patient to be sure there's not some sort of side effect and to be able to do that here, close to home sometimes is the difference."

UPMC Hamot President David Gibbons agreed that this will be a game changer for patients who have been asking for access to trials.  "And it's a beacon of hope as well, patients don't have to travel a long distance to have access to world class care and it's here right at the cancer center," Gibbons said.

In 2021 alone, some 115 cancer patients from Erie and the surrounding area were enrolled in one of nearly 500 clinical trials underway at UPMC Hillman in Pittsburgh.

The new funding will enable the Erie Hillman facility to add clinical research staff and to build out the sophisticated laboratory space and processing equipment that will allow patients to participate in more complex, early phase trials, without having to make regular trips to Pittsburgh.

Charles "Boo" Haggerty chief development officers for Hamot Health Foundation called the big check a down payment on what's to come.  "Embarking on a $3-million-dollar campaign is a challenge, but what we're doing it for, we're excited about what it's going to bring," Haggerty said.  "Research is breath-takingly expensive and our commitment at the Hamot Health Foundation is to start today on a $3-million-dollar campaign, so we're calling today a down payment on continued research efforts, continued work to bring clinical trials to Erie and really bring the highest level of cancer care right here to members of our community."