Dr. Jeffrey Matous, MD, Hematologist Oncologist
Interview by WSCR-NCORP Staff Member, Laura Gabbay
What role as a hematologist-oncologist do you play in any given cancer research clinical trial?
This March, it will be 29 years since I returned to Denver after my fellowship training at the University of Washington. At that time, I was a part of the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC) team. Later in 2010, the hematology and transplant practices separated to create the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI) where I see patients today.
My role in a cancer clinical trial is to always let my patients, who might be eligible to enroll in a study, know about the various clinical trials that are open. Clinical trials offer the most innovative, effective, and up-to-date treatments options for cancer patients. The first think I think about when I care for a patient with a cancer diagnosis is: do I have a clinical trial that is appropriate for this patient? The effort is well worth it because anything we, as physicians, can do to provide access to clinical trials and studies is vital.
What advice would you have for other physicians interested in pursuing cancer research opportunities at the local level?
Given that the types of studies offered by NCORP’s, like Western States Cancer Research NCORP, are National Cancer Institute (NCI) studies, conceived and put out by the finest physicians and researchers in the country, it is imperative for physicians to consider the opportunity.
Every time a patient is at a treatment crossroads, either diagnosis or when changing treatments, physicians would learn that NCI clinical trials offer the most cutting-edge treatment options and latest advances in science for their patients.
If a physician does not take interest or explore cancer research opportunities at the local level, she/he is missing something. She/he may be missing an important opportunity to improve the care of her/his patient.
What lies ahead for cancer research?
In 2020, there was a marked, intentional decrease in accruals by physicians to cancer studies and clinical trials, as we figured out how best to consent with COVID-19.
I am glad to report that with the lessons we have learned since last March, we are full-steam ahead once again with our patients to enroll them in the trials that might help them.
Another advance I see ahead is around the increased focus on harnessing a patient’s own immune system to develop more effective treatments for her/his care and in fighting cancer more broadly. These include CAR T-Cell therapy and bispecific antibody treatments. (Author’s note: Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-Cell therapy is a promising new way to get immune cells call T cells, a type of white blood cell, to fight cancer by changing them in the lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells. Bispecific antibodies are artificial proteins that have promising applications in the field of cancer immunotherapy.)
Well-conducted NCI clinical trials in hematology, for example, led to the new standard of care in Myeloma, in which we pursue a maintenance regimen, as opposed to course of care in which once a cancer has gone into remission, we monitor the patient to detect if the cancer has reappeared.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, fewer than 1 in 20 adult cancer patients enroll in cancer clinical trials. Although barriers to trial participation have been the subject of frequent study, the rate of trial participation has not changed substantially over time. Barriers to trial participation are structural, clinical, and attitudinal, and differ accordingly to demographic and socioeconomic factors. To what degree do you feel the rate of trial participation by adult cancer patients can be affected and what advice would you have for WSCR-NCORP as it addresses these barriers in its physician and patient outreach?
The Role of Payors is Vital
Looking ahead, all payors (i.e., insurance providers) need to be invested in covering the care of consumers who want to participate in clinical trials. The recent law passed last y ear in our state allowing Coloradans who are on Medicaid to access cancer clinical trials is a step in the right direction, because cost to the patient should not be a factor in their ability to join a study.
Increased Attention to Building Infrastructure in Practices for Clinical Trial Accruals
It is known that practices choosing to look at clinical trials must then take the extra step of building the infrastructure necessary to have participation by adult cancer patients.
This infrastructure is a commitment and includes arrangements for screenings and how to go about getting patient consent to go on a study. WSCR-NCORP can help by getting out the word that these well-conducted federal trials are worth the investment of time and resources by physicians at the local level.
Biography of Dr. Jeffrey Matous, MD:
Jeffrey Matous, MD, is a Member Physician at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute and part of the Plasma Cell Diseases Group. Dr. Matous became a member of CBCI in 2010. He is presently a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Dr. Matous is also on the board of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.
Dr. Matous was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada but raised in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Matous received his medical degree with honors from the University of Washington. He completed his internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. His fellowship training in hematology and bone marrow transplantation was completed at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He returned to Denver to practice at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers in 1994, where he worked until 2010 before moving to CBCI.
Dr. Matous specializes in the treatment of blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, Weldenstrom Macroglobulinemia and amyloidosis as well as the field of blood & marrow transplantation. Dr. Matous has a particular interest in medical education and supervises both medical students and internal medicine residents who are interested in the field of hematology/oncology. Dr. Matous has been recognized as an outstanding clinical teacher of medical house staff. He is the lead Investigator in the clinical trials in the areas of Weldenstrom Macroglobulinemia, multiple myeloma, and amyloidosis, and his been recognized by his peers as Top Doctor for the past 16 years. He is passionate about educating patients with these diseases.
Dr. Matous is married with three adult children. Outside of work he enjoys cycling and languages.