Edward offers clinical trial for rare type of sarcoma.
Naperville Sun HealthAware column:
Study at Edward offers hope for cancer patient
December 3, 2012
In spring of 2008 Dean Nickens, 60, of St. John, Mo., learned the bump on his leg he thought was a routine injury was actually a type of sarcoma, called chondrosarcoma, on his upper thigh bone. Sarcomas are cancers that start in bone or soft tissues in the body.
He never made it to the biopsy scheduled the Tuesday after his diagnosis. He had a heart attack on Monday night.
“I think reading the alarming information about sarcomas on the Internet helped trigger the attack,” Nickens says.
After taking time off to recover from the heart attack and subsequent angioplasty, Nickens had the biopsy in June 2008. In July, his surgeon removed 8 inches of femur, along with a tumor bigger than an orange. They also inserted an 11-inch titanium rod to replace the bone that was removed.
Nickens began physical therapy and periodic CT scans. His recovery was going well until April 2010 when he learned tumors had spread to the lungs. That summer brought him two separate lung surgeries.
“It’s not unusual for chondrosarcomas to spread to the lungs,” says medical oncologist Samir Undevia, of the Edward Hematology Oncology Group. “And there’s no chemotherapy or radiation treatment for this type of cancer.”
Despite the setback, Nickens soldiered on in therapy to strengthen his leg and his lung capacity. He still hoped to golf again, but in April 2011, the tumors returned. The surgeon told him additional surgery would be too dangerous.
“He said I had six months to two years to live,” Nickens says.
The next stop for Nickens was an oncologist at St. Louis University who told him about a chondrosarcoma clinical trial with sites in New York, Philadelphia and Arizona. Nickens was accepted into the study, and he and his wife, Cathy, began monthly trips to Philadelphia to pick up the study medication, Panzopanib, and to meet with clinical staff.
“When you’re offered hope, it’s worth travelling any distance,” Cathy says.
Still, they were glad to shorten that distance when a study site opened at Edward Hospital in Naperville.
“Dean now had a treatment option,” says Dr. Undevia, the principal investigator for sarcoma clinical trials at Edward. “Since he’s been on the Panzopanib his tumors have stopped growing, and the cancer has stopped spreading.”
“It’s like a miracle that the study opened right about the time Dean was told there’s nothing we can do,” she says.
Sarcomas make up only 1 percent of adult cancers and the number of experts is limited. Edward is the only site in Illinois for the chondrosarcoma clinical trial, and Dr. Undevia is one of only eight medical oncologists in the Chicago area with expertise in sarcoma. In addition to being on Edward’s medical staff, he is the director of the Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Program at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
“Clinical trials are the future of medicine,” Dr. Undevia says. “We hope sarcomas will become a manageable disease like diabetes and hypertension.”
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services