Bernie Pulone, R.N., helps deliver the newest therapies to patients. Her favorite part? When survivors return to their normal lives.
A lot has changed about cancer care since Bernie Pulone, R.N., first joined City of Hope's medical team.
As a new nurse more than 33 years ago, she sat by patients' bedsides through the night delivering chemotherapy — a task now handled by automated pumps. Even then, she looked ahead to better treatments.
"Part of what interested me in hematology and oncology was the idea that this was going to be an exciting field — that there were new drugs coming," Pulone said.
Today, she helps move those new treatments forward. She has served as a clinical research nurse for 10 years, caring for patients with lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma who participate in studies of up-and-coming therapies.
Many patients in clinical trials receive promising treatments under evaluation for wider use. By taking part in research, they may help themselves and contribute to the care of countless other patients.
Besides keeping track of patients' drug doses and side effects, she offers patients information and support.
"I'm inspired every day by the bravery and integrity of the patients we work with. I really like being their advocate, working face-to-face and providing education. It's nice to be there as a resource to them," she said.
Only a fraction of trials lead to drugs approved by the Federal Drug Administration, and it can take 15 years or longer for a treatment to go from the Petri dish to the pill bottle. Pulone estimates she has worked on trials leading to about 10 approved treatments.
She was part of one recent success story. Robert Chen, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, led a trial examining a medicine called brentuximab vedotin. As a result of the study, the treatment became the first new drug approved for Hodgkin lymphoma in 30 years.
Pulone understands the impact of such studies, but she draws the most satisfaction from patients she knows personally.
She saw several patients with relapsed lymphoma whose cancer went into complete remission after a year of treatment with investigational drugs.
"The biggest reward is knowing that they're back to work, that they're enjoying their lives," Pulone said. "And I have the pleasure of calling them every three months and hearing that they're doing fine. That's the fun part."
More Faces of Hope >>