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Zimmer Clinical Trials Target Cancer in Whole New Way

What does it mean to have a close-to-home, nationally recognized cancer center that participates in cancer clinical trials to ensure patients have access to the very best treatment options available?

Just ask fifty-year-old Wilmington resident and cancer survivor Louise Lanter: “It means helping increase survival while helping find new ways to treat cancer, including finding a cure.”

Diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer last February, Lanter immediately sought the medical expertise of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Zimmer Cancer Center, designated an Academic Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

“I wanted to know all my options and wanted whatever it took to rid this disease from my body,” said Lanter, a registered nurse at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. “I wanted to be as aggressive in my treatment plan as possible.”

Following removal of an ovarian tumor, Lanter met with her surgeon, Zimmer gynecologic oncologist Walter Gajewski, MD, and Lynette Racco, RN, manager of the Zimmer Cancer Research program, to discuss follow-up treatment.

Current standard therapies were an option. Then another option – clinical trials, or people-based research studies designed to determine the effectiveness of new drugs and treatment options.

“Clinical trials are important because they offer patients access to the best evidence-based care available by comparing a current therapy to a new therapy that is just as good as the current therapy and may be better,” said Racco. “Many, if not all, of the cancer treatments we have today evolved from or were influenced by research from past clinical trials – they are truly tomorrow’s cancer drugs in the making today.”

For Cyrus Kotwall, MD, a surgical oncologist and medical director of NHRMC’s oncology program, clinical trials are about changing the future of cancer care.

“We are fortunate in our community to have some of the latest clinical trials available to our cancer patients in order to offer current treatment regimens that test new ideas in the way we manage cancer patients,” he said.

Depending on the kind of trial being conducted, patients are typically divided up into groups, each receiving a different medical treatment or strategy. Eligibility to participate in a clinical trial depends on various factors, and all trials are voluntary, said Racco. Often, participants in clinical trials are subject to increased testing and monitoring because of the research being conducted.

Lanter qualified for a clinical trial using the drug Avastin, in addition to chemotherapy given intravenously or directly into the abdominal cavity to treat her stage III ovarian cancer, said Racco. Lanter continues to participate in her clinical trial a year later and is benefiting from its treatment.

“I knew the clinical trials potentially offered a very aggressive treatment plan. I knew that my condition would be very closely observed for years to come. And I knew it was a chance to continue to break new ground in the fight against cancer – and all within a few minutes’ drive from my home,” said Lanter. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”

Names to Know
Clinical Trials at NHRMC's Zimmer Cancer Center

At the Zimmer Cancer Center, clinical trials are currently ongoing for lung, colon, breast, and gynecological cancers, including:

SWOG 1007 – Short for South West Oncology Group, this clinical trial will help determine which patients with breast cancer lymph node metastasis would be more likely to benefit from hormonal therapy alone without chemotherapy, thereby reducing the use of aggressive and costly treatment in women who are unlikely to benefit from it.

CALGB 80702 – Short for Cancer and Leukemia Group B’s Clear Colon study, this clinical trial for colon cancer patients will help determine if patients do just as well with less chemotherapy by adding a non-chemotherapy drug to the treatment plan. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

ZCC2010* – An early stage breast cancer study, this clinical trial evaluates cosmetic outcomes in women who undergo radiation following different types of breast surgery.

CCRO11* – This treatment study evaluates elective low dose radiation for locally advanced head and neck cancer.

Cancer clinical trials at the Zimmer Cancer Center, including those listed above, are open to all new cancer patients. Patients are screened for eligibility based on diagnosis, stage of disease and other protocol criteria by the Zimmer cancer research nurse and by the treating physician. For more information on the clinical trials program at Zimmer Cancer Center, call 910.343.7641.

* Both are local studies sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

2131 S. 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401  |  910.343.7000