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Feature Article Clinical Trial Gives Cancer Survivor Chance to Help Others

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Battling cancer is an emotional and tiring journey and often creates a close-knit community among those who have experienced it. For many, participating in a clinical trial means helping others who will go through cancer, giving them a better chance to beat it.

After a diagnosis of breast cancer, followed by a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Barbara Johnson of Corvallis was identified as a good candidate for a clinical trial and she was eager to participate.

“I just couldn’t say no when they asked me,” she said. “I felt if it could help me that would be good, but if I could do this and help someone else, that would be great.”

David Hufnagel, DO, is the medical director of the Samaritan Cancer Program and leads several of the cancer clinical trials at Samaritan. These clinical trials are an important part of developing the best standards of care for disease.

“Participating in a clinical trial gives people access to cutting-edge treatments,” said. Dr. Hufnagel. “A well-designed clinical trial is almost always the best option for patients.”

The clinical trial Johnson is participating in involves the oral therapy drug Neratinib and ways to reduce the gastrointestinal side effects that can be associated with its use.

Shortly after the clinical trial started, Johnson began experiencing severe intestinal upset from the Neratinib. She was uncomfortable and didn’t know if she wanted to continue. But after calling the nurse care coordinator for support and finding the right mix of medications to help combat the side effects, she felt encouraged enough to stick with the clinical trial. With the side effects managed, Johnson feels good.

“I wouldn’t feel right with myself if I decided to quit because I felt uncomfortable,” said Johnson. “And it turned out by problem is solvable. I just want what I’m experiencing to help the women of the future.”

For Dr. Hufnagel, clinical trials are a way to help our community but also the larger community of all people fighting cancer.

“When patients participate in clinical trials, it helps cancer treatment move forward so we have better and more effective care,” said Dr. Hufnagel. “It helps everyone.”

Visit samhealth.org/Research to learn more about the clinical trials available at Samaritan.