Clinical Trials Helped 1 Woman's Cancer Battle
And new tool for finding the right match may help others get novel treatments
Barlow took Xalkori for two years, but last year the cancer returned yet again, requiring three ablations (localized methods to destroy a tumor without removing it) and two chemoembolizations (which deliver chemotherapy directly to the liver tumor while minimizing exposure to healthy tissues). Those procedures were not effective, and the next step was surgery to remove almost half of her liver.
Then, when tumor growth appeared in the new liver tissue that had grown back after the surgery, her doctors suggested she try a second clinical trial for a drug called LDK 378, which is being developed by Novartis.
The treatment continues to be tough. "This drug is a lot more difficult for me to take [than the drugs in the first clinical trial]," she said. "There are a lot of side effects, like nausea and vomiting."
Although the medication seems to be shrinking her liver tumors, just recently she had problems with a lung infection and a collapsed lung after a bronchoscopy. That has forced her to take a break from the trial; she hopes to restart as soon as the infection is gone.
Barlow continues to work, traveling with the team when she can. When she's sidelined by her illness, she's frustrated. "I can't believe I had to miss opening day [for the Orioles] this year," she said.
Because she has what she calls "excellent insurance," Barlow hasn't had to face serious medical bills. There is no charge for the care associated with her clinical trial, she said. But she and her family pay for the cost of traveling to her clinical trial site in Philadelphia, including hotel and meals, which can add up when she has an occasional hospital stay there, she added.
The drug Barlow is taking now wasn't available when she was diagnosed three years ago, she said.
"There are so many new things coming out, changing how cancer is being treated, so it's really important to be your own advocate or have someone who is advocating for you," she said. "The Internet can be a huge way to help you stay on top of the latest resources."