OMAHA -- An Omaha-based cancer research network that has administered clinical trials at eastern Nebraska hospitals for the past 20 years has reorganized as a statewide group.

The group, previously known as the Missouri Valley Cancer Consortium, is transitioning to the Cancer Alliance of Nebraska. The network has connected more than 8,000 patients with 725 national trials involving cancer treatment, prevention and symptom management.

Cancer Alliance President Dr. Gamini Soori said the mission of the new group is to bring National Cancer Institute trials "to every community in the state." He called it "a lofty goal."

The group has eight partner organizations from Nebraska Cancer Specialists in Omaha and Fremont to Regional West Cancer Center in Scottsbluff. The group's organizers have prepared to contact other hospital systems and look for public support.

Clinical trials help researchers decide whether new tests and treatments work, as well as what new and potential therapies could be given to eligible patients. Soori said local networks such as the Cancer Alliance help make clinical trials available to patients close to home.

"You want something local, especially in rural areas where transportation is a problem," oncologist Dr. Rabih Fahed said. Fahed's hospital, Faith Regional Carson Cancer Center in Norfolk, has 29 patients in trials through the Cancer Alliance.

Soori said the organization has been funded over the years by community-centered National Cancer Institute grants and local partners. Alliance executive director Mary Beth Wilwerding said that as the Missouri Valley organization, the group received about $15 million in federal cancer research funds over 20 years.

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