When 72-year-old Myra Gallagher of Wisconsin was diagnosed with bladder cancer several years ago, she was one of more than 80,000 Americans diagnosed with bladder cancer that year.
She spent months on an aggressive regimen of radiation and chemotherapy, but by the end her cancer remained.
Her oncologist, Dr. Malik T. Vanderly of Aurora Cancer Center in Kenosha, told her she was eligible for an ongoing clinical trial called TAPUR, and Gallagher jumped at the chance.
“It was exciting,” said Gallagher. “At first, we didn’t have this. It wasn’t an option.”
Last fall, Wisconsin’s Aurora Healthcare Cancer Clinic participated in a Targeted Agents and Profiling Use Registry study looking to approach cancer care from a different angle. This includes the Aurora Medical Center Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic (10400 75th St.
People are also reading…
Rather than classifying cancers by their location, Bandealy explained, TAPUR classified cancers by DNA data. Cancers originating in different parts of the body can theoretically be treated with the same drug.
“Maybe in 10 or 20 years, there will come a time when no one will talk about having ‘lung cancer’ or ‘bladder cancer’ or ‘breast cancer,'” Bandealy said. “It doesn’t matter where it started. Cancer is known by its mutations.”
More than 3,300 participants nationwide will be enrolled in the pilot study. Across the Aurora system, more than 20 of her patients, including Gallagher, have agreed to participate.
She said the center and its staff continued to push her through her treatment.
“I can’t speak highly enough of this establishment,” Gallagher said. “They won’t give up here. They won’t let you sit back.”
Bandealy said one of the reasons cancer research is making rapid progress these days is that such trials are being held not only at universities, but also at centers like Kenosha.
“Many large and moderately sized regional cancer centers are now participating in clinical trials, making it easier to recruit 3,300 patients,” Bandealy said.
In Gallagher’s case, a lab test looked at her cancer cells and found that their DNA was very similar to that of breast cancer. She was prescribed an anti-cancer drug targeting breast cancer.
Treatment has been successful so far. Gallagher’s cancer is stable, and unlike chemotherapy, her energy and strength are maintained during treatment.
“A few years ago, I didn’t think it was possible,” Gallagher said. “So it’s kind of hope. A clinical trial is hope. It’s not for a cure, but I hope it keeps me stable and as close to normal life as possible.”
Beyond the benefits Gallagher received, and the potential impact on future cancer treatments, Bandealy said the trial highlighted the high level of care provided at the Kenosha facility.
“The great thing is that we’ve been able to condense all the high-level technology that’s available in these big centers into this community,” says Bandealy. “This cancer center can do all kinds of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and cutting-edge radiation technology.”
TAPUR research is available at all 17 community cancer clinics in Wisconsin through Advocate Aurora’s National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program. For more information on Advocate Aurora’s research, visit aah.org/research.