According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common cancer among men and women and the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2014, it is estimated that 224,210 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center was selected as the only cancer facility in New Jersey to offer a clinical study on a new lung cancer investigational drug called Nivolumab, which is made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
“This clinical study uses immuno-therapy as a new approach for treating lung cancer. This therapy uses the patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells,” stated Myron Bednar, M.D., Medical Oncologist, Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center. Dr. Bednar further explained, “Nivolumab works by blocking the protein called PD-1. The PD-1 antibodies stop lung cancer cells from blocking the body’s natural immune response to cancer. A drug that can inhibit PD-1 may be able to treat a variety of cancers, which is very exciting.”
Patients who may be eligible for the study have been diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer and have undergone at least one therapy prior to entering this trial. “The benefit from standard therapy is limited for this patient population. Our hope is that this drug will keep the cancer from growing and have the patient’s immune system do the work of killing the cancer cells, versus drugs that may have many side effects, said Kenneth Blankstein, Medical Oncologist at Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center. Dr. Blankstein also mentioned, “We are pleased to be able to provide this trial in our community. We are not only the only cancer facility in New Jersey testing this drug in a clinical trial, but the only one in the tri-state area. The next closest facility is in Tennessee.”
Daria Shepherd of Kingwood Township was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer in December. Ms. Shepherd had gone to her family doctor because of a pain she was having on her side. An ultrasound showed that the pain was the result of a cyst on her ovary, but the test also found a spot on her lung. A chest scan and a biopsy determined it was cancer. “I started chemotherapy, but it wasn’t effective for my type of cancer, so Dr. Bednar thought I would be an ideal candidate for the Nivolumab clinical trial,” stated Ms. Shepherd. Shepherd added, “This is my second week receiving the drug and I feel good, it has not had any side effects that have interfered with my life.” In fact, Ms. Shepherd was heading out to Spruce Run to fish with her family after her treatment.
Through Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center’s partnership with Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, physicians have access to many clinical research trials, which are administered by specially trained staff. Current trials offered at Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center include new treatment protocols for lung cancer, breast, gastrointestinal cancers, as well as lymphoma and melanoma. To learn more about clinical trials at Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, call Kathy Robbins, RN, MSN, OCN, Clinical Research Nurse at Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center at 908-237-2330 ext. 2.
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