In November of 2005, Marie Thompson learned that she had stage four metastatic colon cancer. While her condition is considered incurable, it is treatable. And by pairing the leading-edge therapies and clinical trials available at the Floyd Memorial Cancer Center of Indiana with her determination and positive attitude, Marie has achieved results and maintained a quality of life far beyond what might have been expected.
“When patients have advanced cancer like Marie’s, we usually treat them with chemotherapy on a continual basis. But because she has been able to tolerate treatments well, in part due to the medications used in the clinical trials, she has experienced periods of remission in which we were able to give her chemo holidays. They’ve given her more freedom to travel and enjoy her life, and quality of life is something that’s very important to patients.”
Yasoda Dev, MD
Board Certified Medical Oncologist/Hematologist
Floyd Memorial Cancer Center of Indiana
“Being in the trials means I get the advantage of new treatments that may not even be available at other places. And speaking as a mother of six and grandmother of ten, it makes me feel good to know that these trials might lead to better treatments that could help my children or grandchildren one day.”
5 Year Colon Cancer Survivor
Board certified Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Yasoda Dev, MD, has been treating Marie since her diagnosis. As Dr. Dev explained, “Marie chose to participate in clinical trials at the start of her treatment and has had amazing responses. She is already more than five years out from her diagnosis, and she continues to enjoy a good quality of life, which is always our goal.”
Trial #1: Helping Prevent a Serious Side Effect of Chemotherapy
Denette Grider, RN, BSN, OCN, is the clinical research coordinator at the Cancer Center, and has worked closely with Marie throughout her treatments. According to Denette, “Marie’s first treatment involved a combination of drugs with FOLFOX. The combination is very effective in treatment for colon cancer, but comes with a number of side effects. One of them is neuropathy, or nerve damage, to the fingers and toes. If it is severe, the treatment has to be interrupted. The first clinical trial Marie participated in involved an additional drug that was added to her chemotherapy to prevent the development or lessen the severity of the neuropathy. In her case, it worked and allowed her to receive the entire course of treatment, which led to a remission, without neurological side effects.”
Trial #2: Targeted Therapy That Zeroes in on Cancer Cells
When Marie’s cancer returned, she took part in a second clinical trial. This one involved the use of targeted therapy along with chemotherapy. “Targeted therapies are designed to directly attack certain sites on the surface of the cancer cells,” said Dr. Dev. “They can help us tailor cancer treatment. And because they are more selective for cancer cells than normal cells, they can reduce side effects.” Marie had a very good response to the therapy. It was over a year before she had another recurrence.
“They’re Like Family to Me.”
Marie is glad she’s had the opportunity to participate in the clinical trials at the Cancer Center. And as she said, “The Cancer Center of Indiana is like one big family, from the first person who greets you, to the volunteers, to the staff and the doctors. It doesn’t take you long to feel at home. You’re going to have your good days and your bad days. But you’ve got to stay positive. And if you ever have a problem or question, you can just call one of the nurses. They’re always glad to help.”
As Denette summed it up, “Marie is a very good fighter. I think that says a lot for her character. We’re working hard to give her the tools to keep up her fight.”