Clinical trials offer hope for patients with debilitating conditions

4 Your Health

INDIANAPOLIS – There are thousands of clinical trials for drugs that have yet to be approved for widespread use.

But getting access to these trials, and the experimental drugs they may offer, can be difficult—until now.

Carol Montague of Newburgh, Indiana, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. She initially traveled to Seattle for treatment and the support of her daughter. Her cancer was aggressive, and doctors removed 12 lymph nodes. She also underwent 35 rounds of radiation treatment.

But the next step in beating the cancer was enrolling in a clinical trial from Franciscan Health in her home state of Indiana.

She was referred to Dr. Taylor Ortiz, an oncologist.

In his practice at Franciscan Health, 400 patients are taking advantage of potentially cutting-edge medicines in clinical trials.

“We’re offering them treatments that can give us opportunities to give patients a better outcome,” said Ortiz, “and to offer them the newest targeted treatments and immunotherapy treatments that are benefitting patients with cancer.”

Along with breast cancer drug trials, Ortiz said there are trials for the treatment of melanoma and lung cancer.

Chemotherapy and all the reported side effects can sometimes take a smaller role while newer, targeted drugs can play a bigger part in the overall treatment plan.

“We have treatments now where chemo has become a much smaller part of the treatment and things such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy, where the side effects are much less, are a much bigger part and can have a big impact,” Ortiz said.

Getting into a clinical trial requires genetic testing of tumors and close monitoring of the patient.

Patients are assured of the best-approved drug treatment and have access to an experimental drug being tested in the clinical trial, if that is the protocol.

Ortiz is responsible for going over the plan with the patient and explaining any risks and benefits. The patient does not have to search out trials to enroll in.

“When they come to us, see us, they don’t need to know which drug is right or which trial they are interested in,” said Ortiz. “That’s my job, our job, at Franciscan Health.”

Carol been cancer free for three years now and makes the trip to Indy once every three months or talks virtually with Ortiz. She’s proud of her decision to enroll in a clinical trial, knowing it could be the answer for another patient.

“I think if it can help someone else, I think it’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

There are over 366,000 clinical studies globally. For more information about them, click here.

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