Clinical trials that could change the future of cancer medicine are happening here in North Texas, offering patients hope at a cure and giving doctors new tools in the cancer fight.
Several of those trials are happening at Texas Oncology of Fort Worth, where Sulphur Springs resident Emily Herschler was treated for ovarian cancer.
"My tummy was as if, for a lack of a better analogy, eight months pregnant at 60 years old!" Herschler said.
With Herschler's stage II ovarian cancer diagnosis, Texas Oncology's Dr. Noelle Cloven – a Fort Worth-based specialist in treating gynecologic cancers – recommended a clinical trial in order to eradicate any remaining microscopic cancer cells, which many ovarian cancer patients often face.
Thanks to the cancer moonshot initiative, a push by the National Cancer Institute, more people are getting access to clinical trials of potentially cancer-killing drugs.
Already this year, two targeted therapies for gynecologic cancer have succeeded to become FDA-approved, according to Dr. Cloven.
"Right now, I'd say one of the biggest focuses of our research is to try and find out which patients benefit from which drugs, because ovarian cancer is very complicated. It's not just one mutation," Cloven said.
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It was a double-blind study, so although Herschler doesn't know whether she received the study medication or a placebo, she says the trial gave her hope and the chance to help further ovarian cancer research for the many women who will face this disease in the future.
Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and Herschler's outcome is rare.
"The frustrating thing is we don't know what it is about a certain patient that allows us to cure them of their cancer, when so many other patients aren't cured," Cloven said.
"I can be here and I can enjoy this, and I honestly wondered, 'Why me?' Maybe if I can help others, that's the answer to my question," Herschler said.
Texas Oncology's community-based care and robust clinical research program hopes to add more clinical trials in the future.