Personal Stories: Suzanne Hebert

May 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm 3 comments

Suzanne Hebert has undergone many treatments, including surgeries and chemotherapies, to fight off her stage IV breast cancer. She was diagnosed with the advanced stage cancer at age 39, 7 1/2 years ago; it was only when she started treatment in a Phase I clinical trial at MD Anderson in July 2011 that she saw some respite from the disease.

Tell me why you decided to enroll in a Phase I Clinical trial?
I had already been in a couple of Phase III trials but I had never considered a Phase I. I think there are a lot of preconceptions about clinical trials in general and about Phase I in particular. Like many patients, I just crossed it off my list. Then my doctor suggested that I go and see someone at the Clinical Center for Targeted Therapy, MD Anderson’s Phase I Clinical Trials clinic. I ended up talking with Dr. Jennifer Wheler and she offered me a trial, which sounded great. She carried out some tests and decided that the drug I was going to be taking, Everolimus (Afinitor®), might have a good chance of working on my cancer. So I agreed to enroll.

Were you surprised at some of what you learned from Dr. Wheler about clinical trials?
Yes, I was. One of the first things I learned was that the drug I would be getting was already FDA approved for kidney and brain cancer; it just wasn’t approved for breast cancer. I had always thought that a Phase I trial would involve an unproven drug and that I would receive a dose escalation for safety reasons. I never considered that in Phase I, I would be getting a drug that was already approved. Knowing that I was not going to be one of the first to take the drug put my mind at ease. The other thing I learned was that I was eligible for solid tumor trials whereas I had always been researching breast cancer trials. This trial was open to people with varying types of cancer. So I would not have even have come across it if Dr. Wheler had not told me about it.

Editor’s Note: BCT includes solid tumor trials open to different types of solid tumors including breast cancer. You can learn more about these and other trials for metastatic breast cancer here.

Do you feel like you are carefully monitored on the trial?
Yes, definitely. I see the doctor once a month and have scans every two to three months. I am very closely watched.

What effect did the drug being tested have on your tumor?
The first scan showed that my tumor had shrank by 20 percent. Since then it has been stable, which in the world of Stage IV breast cancer is okay.

Is the trial still going on?
Yes, it is. And hopefully soon the FDA will approve Afinitor for breast cancer patients so that people will be able to get the drug, not necessarily in a trial. Their doctor will be able to prescribe it for them.

Do you talk to any other patients who are on the trial?
Through different breast cancer websites, I have met a woman who is on the trial and there are a couple of other people I’ve met online. I like to keep track with what’s going on with everyone.

Was it easy for you to enroll on the trial?
I just had to sign my name and take a couple of tests. All three trials I’ve been in, I have found very easy to sign up for.

What would you say to people thinking about a Phase 1 trial?
I would say to keep an open mind about trials, and be aware that there is a lot of false information out there. If you take the extra step to do the research for yourself, it might be worth it. For me, it was a good experience. Unfortunately, your doctor is not going to come to you and say, here is the perfect trial. Patients must do the research themselves, which sometimes can be hard with all they are going through. The other thing I would say is that you can always drop out of a trial. People think they are tied in, but if you are not happy with anything at all, you can always leave.

Entry filed under: Personal Stories, Phase I trials.

Calendar/Events May 2012 Phase I Clinical Trials – A Changing Paradigm

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sundae  |  May 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks to people like you Afinitor was the rave of the last ASCO conference in December. I began taking it as a stage !V patient with bone and liver metastasis. I am doing extremely well with virtually no side effects . Thank you for your participation.

  • 2. Judy Veron  |  June 3, 2012 at 3:28 am

    I love hearing the details about people who have taken advantage of clinical trials. The more we share our stories the more people will be willing to participate. They can take comfort in knowing you are doing your part in making new treatments available to others.
    Thank you and BLESS you!

  • 3. Judy Veron  |  June 3, 2012 at 3:30 am

    to Sundae, please read my reply above


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