Clinical trials have helped Whitehall woman survive breast cancer
January 31, 2016 12:00 AM
Carrie Martin, 44, with her husband, Al, 51, and their three children: Alex, 16, Drew, 12, and Will, 8, at their home in Whitehall. Ms. Martin was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer late in 2008, with metastases diagnosed in July 2010.
By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Participating in clinical trials requires time, patience, resolve and homework, which can be a small price to pay for extending one’s time on the planet.
Carrie Martin, 44, of Whitehall says as much. She was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer late in 2008, with metastases diagnosed in July 2010. Now doing well, she attributes her survival in large part to her participation in two University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute clinical trials to test two cancer drugs, bevacizumab (Avastin) and veliparib (ABT-888).
The Susan G. Komen For the Cure foundation says triple negative breast cancer has a poor prognosis for the first five years but can go away for those surviving more than five years.
Her three children now 8, 12 and 16 inspired her to do whatever was necessary to survive, she said. She joined a Phase III clinical trial in 2009 to test Avastin, a drug designed to slow the growth of blood vessels that cancer cells need to progress.
“I was very excited about getting the drug,” she said. “As young as I was, and as aggressive the cancer is, I said, ’bring it on.’ ”
She resumed the drug after undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and axillary dissection surgeries, with various rounds of chemotherapy. She said care from research staff was more than she would have received otherwise.
Learning her cancer had metastasized in July 2010, she said she was “extremely shocked.”
“It’s scary but when you are Stage IV, you are more open to trying things.”
Soon after she joined a second clinical trial, a Phase I study to test ABT-888, a PARP inhibitor. That’s a protein that cancer cells need to repair damage. Still experimental, ABT-888 is designed to make the cancer more vulnerable to chemotherapy and other treatments.
Now six years after initial diagnosis she said the fact she’s now in good health is mindboggling. She advises patients to educate themselves about all aspects of the trial and its requirements before signing up.
“I have always marveled at people who don’t go into studies,” she said, acknowledging some gray area and the fact that it’s an individual decision. “I know someone had to try all the chemotherapies that I benefited from. All these drugs have come before me, and I feel I’m now doing my part for myself and others.”
David Templeton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1578.
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