wplg logo

Phase 1 Clinical Trials at Sylvester

Clinic Expands Treatment Options for Patients with Advanced Cancers

When new cancer treatments show promise in the laboratory, they move into the careful evaluation of how they work in patients, called Phase 1 clinical trials.

Dr. Jaime Merchan is an oncologist and director of Phase I clinical trials at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. To find out more about clinical trials or to make an appointment, call 305-243-1000 or visit the University of Miami’s health news blog.


When new cancer treatments show promise in the laboratory, they move into the careful evaluation of how they work in patients, called Phase 1 clinical trials. Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only one in South Florida to earn National Cancer Institute Designation (NCI), also has the only Phase 1 clinical trial program in the region.

“We bring patients new hope by evaluating new treatments, treatments that have been shown promise in the laboratory in preclinical models,” says Jaime Merchan, M.D., director of Phase 1 clinical trials at Sylvester. “With NCI designation we will be able to bring new opportunities in regards to clinical trials in regards to new agents, new drugs that will be able to benefit more and more patients.”

Raymond Mathews is currently enrolled in a clinical trial at Sylvester. His stage 4 kidney cancer had spread to his liver. He is now in remission.

“As a patient, you don’t know if the treatment is going to have any side effects. I basically have no side effects. I take it at the same time each day and it’s paid off for me,” says Raymond. “I probably wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t part of the study.”

Phase 1 Clinical Trials are medical research studies of a new drug, combination of drugs, or other types of innovative treatments. The National Institutes of Health states that the purpose of these studies is to determine a safe dose and see how the human body and the cancer respond. Often, standard therapies have stopped working in patients who volunteer to participate in these studies. However in recent years, with advances in the development of immunotherapies, clinical trials are not just for patients who have run out of treatment options.

“This is a very exciting moment in cancer research, especially in Phase 1 research where we are actually seeing significant benefit in many of our patients, where five or ten years ago the main objective of a Phase 1 clinical trial was to see how safe a drug was,” says Dr. Merchan.

While Merchan points out that there have always been “exceptional responders,” he is seeing more and more Phase 1 participants with impressive responses to these investigational therapies. It is no longer considered only a last resort.

“There will be more and more Phase 1 trials that will not be only for patients at the end of the line of their treatment, but can be offered at earlier stages,” Merchan says. “This is the beginning of us becoming a great and important Phase 1 center in the country and in the world, where we will be able to bring the best and most innovative treatments and especially a lot of hope for our patients.”

Centralizing care in one clinic for these study participants streamlines the process and makes it easier for them to receive the newest therapies from leading experts in the field of cancer research.

As the only NCI-designated cancer center in South Florida, patients will have greater access to new treatment options through clinical trials not available elsewhere in our community.


Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine is a series of healthcare-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10. For more stories like this one, visit YouTube channels for UHealth, the University of Miami Health System.

Above content provided by UHealth, the University of Miami Health System