Our Patient Testimonials
The following are patient testimonials of our cancer patients that have participated in a clinical trial at the Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute.
Thankful for "Dr. Von Hope"
Lynne Jacoby, 48, of Phoenix, works as a director of compliance for a healthcare company. Jacoby was given only weeks to live when her Stage 4 pancreatic adenocarcinoma, a tumor the size of a golf ball, was first diagnosed in April 2012 — nine months ago.
"My doctors told me that my life was measured in weeks," Lynne said. "And that on average people survived four months, once they had reached the point that I had reached in terms of the illness. Best case scenario would be to survive up to a year."
“If you had to live your life in a year, and that is all the time you have, wouldn’t you do everything you could to experience this time,” added Lynne, who for nearly a year before her diagnosis had experienced night sweats, indigestion, stomach pains, neck and back pain, and an elevated white-blood count.
Lynne was accepted to participate in a clinical trial at Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials and began the treatment of using the combination Abraxane plus gemcitabine in May 2012. She's had several CT scans and says her last one in September shows no signs of tumor activity whatsoever. "I feel amazing," she said, adding that she expects to continue the treatment through May and then hopes to stay on a maintenance regimen.
Lynne is scheduled to remain on the drug combination through May 2013. “Life is priceless. No amount of money can be placed on life. I know I would be gone already if it was not for Dr. Von Hoff,” said Jacoby, who also refers to him as “Dr. Von Hope.”
Now, Jacoby wants to advocate for people who get a late-stage pancreatic diagnosis to know there is a lot of help out there. "Get several opinions. If you need to get a second opinion, a third opinion," she said.
Stand Up to Cancer
Phoenix resident Dick O'Neall was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer shortly after telling his doctor that he was experiencing a slight discomfort in his ribcage in April 2011. He was given about six months to live.
His son, who works as an information support specialist at Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, arranged for him to get a second opinion there. O'Neall was accepted into a clinical trial at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials, which used the chemotherapy regimen being studied for pancreatic cancer, Gemcitabine and Abraxane, in combination with a Hedgehog pathway inhibitor, a targeted therapy that breaks down the outer covering of the cancer cell to increase the therapeutic effect of the chemotherapy. On June 1, 2011, he began the trial using this drug combination.
"It was the first time I had heard anybody talk about anything hopeful in regard to my future," O'Neall said. The chemo was hard on his body, but it proved worth it. "They were testing me all the time, and almost immediately, my tumors began to shrink."
Today, 16 months after his diagnosis, O'Neall said he feels great, and is continuing treatment on the Abraxane/Gemcitabine regimen. O'Neall, who with his wife, Karen, runs a mentoring program for youth at Calvary Community Church in Phoenix, said he's aware that there is no cure for the disease and that the cancer can return.
"When I look back now, and I can't emphasize enough the compassionate care I received," he said. "They gave me hope to know that there was something that could be done for me, and that I didn't inevitably have to surrender to this terrible disease."
Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials, led by chief scientific officer Daniel Von Hoff, MD, received an $18 million, three year grant in 2009 to become part of the Stand Up to Cancer “dream team” to study how to deprive pancreatic tumors of nutrients that cause them to grow.
Registered nurse Katy Schroeder, pancreatic-cancer care coordinator for the clinical trials, said while her patients have a bleak long-term diagnosis, the dream team doctors empower patients and staff. "Working with Dr. Von Hoff and his passion is infectious," Schroeder said. "He just makes everyone believe that there is hope and that we can provide patients with a treatment."
A New Lease on Life
Arizona resident Evelyn Sorensen is in a far different place today than she was six months ago, thanks to a cutting-edge cancer clinical trial being conducted at the Virginia G. Piper
Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare in partnership with Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
When Sorensen was diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer two years ago, she underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. But the cancer eventually spread to her lymph nodes. Doctors told her they were inoperable, and there were no other standard treatment options available to her.
“I was out of options, and I wasn’t happy to hear that,” said Sorensen, a resident of Mesa. “I’m 47 years old and I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet.”
Sorensen then learned of the BIND-014 clinical trial being conducted through Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials, and quickly joined the study in August of 2011. Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials is a partnership between Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen that treats cancer patients with promising new drugs.
BIND-014, created by BIND Biosciences in Cambridge, Mass., is being studied in patients with advanced or metastatic cancer. It uses microscopic drones to deliver medicine directly to cancer cells, increasing the drug’s effectiveness and minimizing side effects. The study is led in Scottsdale by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, chief scientific officer at Scottsdale Healthcare and physician-in-chief at TGen.
After her first treatment on the study in September 2011, Sorensen’s tumors began to shrink rapidly. Today, doctors say her cancer has diminished substantially, although she still takes the medication to maintain the results. Sorensen is beyond thrilled with the outcomes.
“I didn’t even have any of the horrible side effects that are associated with chemotherapy such as weight loss or hair loss,” she said. “I even joked with Dr. Von Hoff that I thought he was giving me a placebo because I didn’t feel anything!”
Scientists and oncologists say this new nanoparticle treatment could be a big step in the fight against cancer and have high hopes for the future of this kind of targeted therapy. “Cancer cells are very good at erecting a defense against foreign harmful substances,” said Ramesh Ramanthan, MD, medical director of Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials. “We think that nanoparticles may be the solution to penetrating cancer cells and delivering cancer drugs more effectively.”
As for Sorensen, the future is looking much brighter than it did for her six months ago. She is now strong enough to return to work and is back to swimming and enjoying her life. “It’s so hard to explain because at one moment you’re trying to get your affairs in order and you only have a year to live, and then all of the sudden you are offered hope, a chance to live,” said Sorensen. “And I intend to take advantage of every moment of it.”
“I have nothing but admiration for the highly experienced staff at TGen and Scottsdale Healthcare. Dr. Von Hoff and Dr. Ramanathan are world authorities in pancreatic cancer research. It would be difficult to find this type of care and treatment anywhere else. The lab technicians, pharmacists and administrative staff are all very special people.
Help When Others Were at a Loss
Marie Petrini, who has been diagnosed with melanoma, participated in a clinical trial at another Valley organization. When she became allergic to the medicines being used, the experts there “had no idea what to do for me.”
Fortunately, Marie found her way to the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, where she is participating in a clinical trial of a completely different medicine—and with successful results so far.
“I’m delighted to be on this new medication. It’s been just over a year,” said Maria, noting that the staff at the Cancer Center, who she says “are like family,” made a cake to help her celebrate the occasion.
While she is happy about the results of her new medication, Maria also “feels very good” about helping others by participating in a clinical trial. Her involvement has helped to determine appropriate dosages for the new medicine.
“For me, the clinical trial has worked marvelous. I’m very grateful for having this. If not, I don’t know where I’d be today,” Maria said.
The Power of Hope and a Positive Attitude
Aida Castro doesn’t mind driving from her Glendale home to the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare, where she participates in clinical trials of new treatments.
After all, she says, the Cancer Center provides hope for beating the pancreatic cancer she was diagnosed with in July 2008.
Before coming to the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, Aida was given 11 months to live—and little, if anything, to be optimistic about. She began treatment, but wanted options in case it didn’t work. After changing doctors, she learned that clinical trials at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center offered the hope she desperately needed.
“I’m confident they are doing a good job. If the new medicine I’m getting now doesn’t work, there are other studies I may be able to go into,” said Aida, who has participated in two different clinical trials.
While she doesn’t hesitate to recommend the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center to anyone facing cancer, Aida is equally quick to endorse a positive attitude—just like the one exhibited by the staff at the Cancer Center.
“They have very, very good people working there. They’re always warm and positive and take care of us with a good attitude—which is important for patients. They have everything you could ask for,” Aida said.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact us as we will help guide you in the right direction.
Individuals seeking information about eligibility to participate in clinical trials at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare may contact the cancer care coordinator at 480-323-1339; toll free at
1-877-273-3713 or via email at email@example.com.
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