Look to the Future: Clinical Trials – Advanced Breast Cancer with Robin Roberts | WebMD

Look to the Future: Clinical Trials – Advanced Breast Cancer with Robin Roberts | WebMD


ROBIN ROBERTS: Clinical trials are a crucial tool in advancing breast cancer research. Sometimes they can mean new hope, longer life, and better quality of life. But what are you facing if you agree to participate? Well here now, we explore the journey of Heather Furr who has just finished a promising clinical trial for her advanced breast cancer. HEATHER FURR: When I got into the ER they couldn’t believe what they saw. And he said you need to get some serious medical intervention. ROBIN ROBERTS: One year ago, it was looking like Heather Furr’s time was running out. JON FURR: She was pretty much on her deathbed. At that point, once it started sinking in and I realized that I could potentially lose my wife and my best friend, it wasn’t too much further after that where I realized that as tough as that is, my son was going to lose his mom. ROBIN ROBERTS: Heather was used to fighting. This avid kickboxer was incredibly active with her husband Jon and young son, Mitchell. Running, biking, diving. But her second bout with breast cancer in just two years looked to be a losing battle. HEATHER FURR: I was scared. I didn’t know how long I would be here. I felt like there has to be something better. All standard care– chemotherapy, radiation, even holistic medicine– wasn’t working for her. That’s when her doctor recommended pursuing clinical trials, a decision she had originally dismissed. HEATHER FURR: And I decided a week before I was to have an appointment with them that I wasn’t going to go because I wasn’t going to be a Guinea pig. I wasn’t going to be a number. DR. LITTON: I think it’s the fear of the unknown. I think that also goes with cancer in general. ROBIN ROBERTS: Dr. Jennifer Litton says many breast cancer patients opt out of clinical trials because of common misconceptions. DR. LITTON: And I think one of the biggest misconceptions that I hear from patients is that they think clinical trials are only when you have nothing else to offer. That’s absolutely not the case. The other thing I hear is, well I don’t want to be a Guinea pig. I don’t want to get a sugar pill. DR. SMITH: And you’re not going to get that placebo. You’re either going to get standard of care, or you’re going to get the new experimental treatment. So rest assured that you are going to get treatment, and you will be monitored very closely. ROBIN ROBERTS: Clinical trials are research studies that determine if a treatment not yet approved by the FDA should be allowed as part of the standard care for all patients. DR. SMITH: Clinical trials are absolutely key. The way that we test a new treatment, the safety of it, the effectiveness of it, is through clinical trial. So the next latest and greatest treatment for advanced breast cancer will come from a clinical trial. ROBIN ROBERTS: There are many resources to help patients find out if they qualify for any of the hundreds of ongoing clinical trials, including a free matching service offered by the American Cancer Society. KATHERINE SHARPE: We really provide that sort of comprehensive education around what is a trial, when is it appropriate, and how can we help find the right trial for you. ROBIN ROBERTS: Dr. Litton oversees a clinical trial that fits Heather’s situation. A medicine called a PARP inhibitor that is designed to help women with the BRCA gene like Heather. JON FURR: Six weeks later, with those tumors gone, I saw in her a light. It was like she now had hope and she could see that there was potentially a path to a continued life with her family, versus not really having a chance to continue that much longer. ROBIN ROBERTS: A year later, Heather is back to her active lifestyle. And not just feeling better, but feeling better about participating in something that could help others. HEATHER FURR: I feel like it did give me purpose. That I can be a small part of the puzzle. I don’t need to be a big part, just a small part. To be on this particular drug that could potentially help other women to not have to go through the hardships of what I went through. DR. LITTON: I’ve never been more excited with the amount of therapies that we are looking at combining. Not every trial works as quickly or as well as Heather. But certainly when we see this and we see a patient like Heather it really spurs us to keep going, and to keep looking. HEATHER FURR: I think without the clinical trials it’s a very real possibility that I wouldn’t necessarily be here. And when I look at my son, I’m going to be here for him. Because I’m my son’s mom. And I want to raise him, and I want to be here for him. So my job is not done. I’m not done. That’s what drives me every day.

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