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UNM Hospital clinical trials benefiting cancer patients

Emily Jaceks
August 19, 2017 04:30 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – When one thinks of cancer treatment, chemotherapy and radiation probably come to mind.

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But at UNM Hospital, specialists are providing more options, and patients say some of them are saving their lives.

Lena Karunamaya is one of 500 New Mexicans who participated in clinical trials at UNMH this year, after she said she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that ended up metastasizing.

“I was willing to go to any lengths because I am a writer (and) a traveler,” she said. “My life’s not done, so why wouldn’t I go to any lengths to do the surgery and clinical trials?”

While those trials can sometimes be a risky bet, patients say they have seen extraordinary success.

“I’ve been on this for six months, and every time I’ve had a CT scan, the tumor’s size goes down about 10 or 12 percent,” she said.

The cancer also was wiped out in her torso.

Another benefit of her particular trial: relatively fewer side effects.

“One really great factor of this combination is hair loss is not a high factor of side effects, so my hair has been growing back since February,” Karunamaya said.

But not all clinical trial drugs are for everyone, and not all of them work.

Terri Stewart, with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, said that when they’re lucky enough to find one that does work, it’s a long process to get it to those who need it.

“Most drugs take about 10 years, some 15 years, to go through the research process before they’re approved by the (Federal Drug Administration) to be out there for patients,” Stewart said. “And we’re trying to speed that up.”

Nonetheless, Karunamaya said she would recommend the decision to undergo trials to other patients, based on her own experience.

“I think clinical trials are cutting edge in terms of treatment in science and medicine,” she said. “If you have a gene or want to be of service to humanity, it would benefit the patient in many ways.” 

Credits

Emily Jaceks

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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