Today’s Standard-of-Care Cancer Treatments Were Yesterday’s Clinical Trials

Friday, January 10, 2020

Cookeville Regional is proud to offer its patients a wide variety of clinical trials from the National Cancer Institute through the Southeast Clinical Oncology Research Consortium (SCOR).


Clinical trials are studies conducted with patients to evaluate new and promising treatments that have not yet been approved for use, or to test the use of an existing drug in a new way.


Dr. Thomas Summers, a medical oncologist at the Cancer Center, serves as the primary clinical trials investigator, and the Cancer Center Clinical Trials Department has two dedicated, full-time staff members — Tellie Mullinix, RN, BSN, clinical trials research nurse coordinator, and Jessica Grider, BS, clinical trials data manager.


The CRMC Cancer Program currently has 18 studies open, focusing primarily on lung and breast cancer.


“We’ve also been seeing a lot of colorectal cancer, so just this year, we’ve opened three trials for colorectal cancer patients” said Grider. “We have access to trials for virtually every diagnosis.”


Trials come in four phases. Phase 1 determines a medicine’s minimum effective dose and its maximum tolerated dose. Phase 2 establishes the desired blood levels and dosing for a medication. Phase 3 compares the treatment with the previous standard of care, and Phase 4 tests for side effects on drugs that are already FDA approved.


Cookeville Regional offers mostly Phase 3 and Phase 4 trials and places the utmost importance on patient safety and choice during clinical trials. Participation is strictly voluntary.


There are several different reasons patients typically choose to participate in clinical trials:


• They can take advantage of the latest treatments when there may be no other currently approved options.

• Trials are often offered at no cost to patients.

• Patients receive a sense of comfort from being followed and monitored very closely during a trial.

• Patients have access to well-thought-out protocols by experts from around the world.

• Patients can gain from the knowledge that they are helping future patients.


Mullinix and Grider say they get great satisfaction from being able to offer patients access to innovative new treatments they may not otherwise be able to have.


“It’s really exciting when you can see that someone is able to survive longer or maybe actually even stop progression of the disease so that they’re stable for much longer and have that much more time with their families because of a clinical trial,” said Mullinix.


To find out more about the Cancer Center’s clinical trials program or to learn more about current studies, please call Jessica Grider at (931) 783-5755. To view available clinical trials nationwide, visit