Study Participant Stories
Our study participants come from all walks of life, but share something very important-courage and an unwavering belief that they deserved more treatment options. Here are just a few of their stories.
Clinical Trials-Dan's Best Hope
Countless procedures at several healthcare facilities, indescribable pain, financial stress, and heavy-hearted family and friends are just a snapshot of Dan's 5-year battle with cancer. This is a story heard too often from many of the patients who come to participate in Gateway-funded studies.
Dan was a successful lawyer with his own law firm. He first learned of his multiple myeloma during a routine physical in March 2005. What he had attributed to back pain from spinal stenosis, a condition he'd had for years, turned out to be pain from a fractured vertebra and rib-the result of his myeloma.
Dan Immediately began chemotherapy. Within three weeks he could no longer walk due to back pain. He was then diagnosed with prostate cancer which could not be treated because of his complications and poor health.
By June 2005, a mere three months after his initial diagnosis, Dan was suffering from severe bleeding, dehydration and excruciating pain from 11 additional spinal fractures that had occurred. The degradation of his spine caused him to lose 4 inches in height.
As his health allowed, he underwent a few stem cell transplant procedures and intense chemotherapy treatments. These did little to combat the progression of the disease. By May 2009, despite aggressive treatment, his blood cancer level was at 85%. With a failing immune system, chemotherapy was no longer an option. Dan thought he had exhausted all treatment options and that he was near the end of his journey.
He was not ready to give up, however. In the fall of 2009, he went to MD Anderson, where he participated in a clinical trial which involved receiving a stem cell transplant using cells harvested from his brothers. The procedure brought his blood cancer level down to 25%. Hope restored-Dan sought additional clinical trial options that would completely eradicate his myeloma.
That's when Dan learned about a Gateway-funded vaccine trial also at MD Anderson that had the potential to help him right now. Dan was familiar with the work of trial's treatment innovatorSM-Dr. Larry Kwak, and the success of vaccine trials in lymphoma patients. This gave him confidence in his decision to participate in the upcoming January 2011 trial.
As part of the trial, Dan's brother-his donor-underwent a series of injections and vaccine treatments using some of the protein from Dan's myeloma to stimulate white blood cell production in preparation for a donor leukocyte infusion-a procedure in which his brother's white blood cells will be infused into his own bone marrow. Dan believes that clinical trials can be the answer for many patients with challenging cancers. "I think they offer a patient the opportunity to receive leading-edge treatment and a future free of cancer," says Dan
Treatment Innovation Makes it Possible for Life to Continue without Interruption
Rochelle and her husband moved to Houston, Texas to take advantage of a career opportunity for her husband. Shortly after their move, she was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer. Their relocation proved to be a fortunate one for Rochelle as it placed her within traveling distance of MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Before her treatment began, Rochelle's physician at MD Anderson recommended that she participate in a clinical trial while undergoing standard treatment to minimize the chance of recurrence. Rochelle had a few options to choose from but selected a Gateway-funded trial because she felt it would fit well into her life and be something that she could manage.
The trial, led by Dr. Krishnan, uses a combination of standard chemoradiation therapy (CRT) together with curcumin (found in many spices) to improve a patient's response to treatment. It included an easy-to-follow regimen of pills, and regularly scheduled appointments that coincided with other physician visits.
Rochelle participated in the study from February to June of 2009. Throughout the trial, Rochelle was able to continue her day-to-day activities as normal. She did not experience any side effects from the treatment and felt so well that she did not miss a single day of work.
The chemoradiation and curcumin therapy was so successful at destroying her cancer that when Rochelle underwent the planned follow-up surgery to remove any residual cancer, her surgeon could not find cancer at the site that had been marked prior to treatment.
It has been a year since the study concluded and Rochelle is healthy and doing well. This clinical trial exemplifies the mission of all Gateway-funded studies-delivery of innovative, effective new treatment options that quickly restore quality of life and save lives for today's cancer patients.
A Positive Outcome for Sonia
Five years ago, Sonia A. found out she had Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was treated and went back to living her life. Unfortunately, relapse rates can be as high as 60% for some high-risk patients and, in 2008, Sonia had a relapse. Her prognosis was not good.
The type of lymphoma Sonia had was resistant to standard treatment and she was told she had only a small chance
that a bone marrow transplant would successfully treat her cancer. Luckily for Sonia, she met Dr. Sally Arai of Stanford University Medical Center, who had just begun a Gateway-funded study.
Sonia was nervous, but after many questions, she decided to join the study. The innovative treatments that it offered gave her hope of a better outcome. Particularly with cellular therapy like that involved in this Gateway-funded study, treatments are highly individualized and she liked the idea of what that could mean for her.
"At all times, I felt I was in good hands," explains Sonia. "I felt very comfortable with her [Gateway-funded researcher Dr. Sally Arai]. I could sense that she was really listening to me, really taking into account...what I was experiencing." Dr. Arai is pleased with how well Sonia is doing in the study.
Dr. Arai and her team are investigating the success of autologous CIK cells (a patient's own natural killer cells within the immune system) as a treatment for patients with blood cancers after bone marrow transplantation. Dr. Arai's team is using innovative technology in a state-of-the-art lab to extract a patient's natural killer cells, get them to multiply, and then infuse them back into patients. It is hoped that this influx of natural killer cells will work against any residual cancer cells.
Sonia is currently in remission. Although not conclusive, Dr. Arai is encouraged with the results for Sonia and many of the other patients in the study so far. Studies like the one Sonia is participating in can make all the difference in a cancer patient's life. And this study paves the way for even more patients to benefit from what Dr. Arai is learning. "Gateway funding opened up the opportunity to explore this [idea] further," says Dr. Arai. "[Gateway] is very focused on novel therapies and promoting that research."
"Treatment InnovatorSM" is the term we use for researchers funded by The Gateway for Cancer Research: the men and women we support in their search for better treatments and cures that can help cancer patients TODAY.