The decades that 73-year-old Toni DuBois West spent in the field of cancer care became more personal when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“Hearing the diagnosis, I was shocked and emotional,” says Dubois West, a longtime resident of Galt, Calif., and a retired radiological technologist at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. “But my first thought was my sons and how difficult it would be to share the news with them.”
Advanced pancreatic cancer — hers was stage 3 — is one of the most aggressive cancers and typically comes with few treatment options. Dubois West was given three cycles of chemotherapy and radiation, but blood tests and CT scans revealed only a small shrinkage of her tumor.
Christopher Laing, M.D., a Sutter cancer researcher and interventional radiologist with sub-specialization in interventional oncology, proposed that Dubois West enroll in TIGeR-PaC, a new clinical trial at Sutter Medical Center via the Sutter Institute for Medical Research.
TIGeR-PaC is offered to patients suffering from locally advanced, inoperable pancreatic tumors where the tumor has not yet metastasized. Patients like Dubois West who meet the criteria for participation are enrolled in the trial before starting treatment for their pancreatic cancer.
“Having worked at Sutter my entire career and seeing the care provided to patients, it has been incredibly comforting to receive the same excellent care now that I’m a patient, too,” said Dubois West.
On enrolling in a clinical trial, West said she had no hesitation in saying “yes” to a new door that had opened in her cancer journey, especially one where new insights to improve pancreatic cancer treatment could be found.
Trial Tests Delivery of Drug Through Catheterization
Unlike other pancreatic cancer clinical trials designed to study investigational drugs, TIGeR-PaC is testing a new method of drug delivery. During the procedure, which is called RenovoTAMP™, a catheter is placed into the major artery next to the patient’s tumor. Chemotherapy is then delivered through the arterial wall so it can reach the adjacent tumor using a technology called RenovoCath™. Sutter is the only site in Northern California offering this clinical trial.
“This technology uses a technique unseen in any other cancer treatment to date,” says Dr. Laing. “We are proud to offer Sutter patients the opportunity to enroll into clinical trials like TIGeR-PaC that are on the cutting edge of new science, treatments and technologies.”
Dubois West received induction treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy to prepare her body for the study treatment last fall. This April, she received her first dose of chemotherapy administered through the specialized catheter. She will continue to receive the study treatment once every two weeks, for a total of eight doses.
“I have experienced no treatment-related side effects and feel encouraged by my progress so far,” Dubois West said. Her blood tests performed since her first few sessions show she is responding to the therapy.