Women's cancers: Clinical trials play pivotal role

March 16, 2014 | by Elizabeth Stewart


In this series –  this part highlights our new clinical trials – we explore crucial strides made against women's cancers by City of Hope researchers during the past year. The projects are many and varied, involving the basics of fighting cancer, analyses of who's at greatest risk, the search for surprising new therapies, the testing of new treatments and the follow-up with survivors and their partners.
Each study plays a role. Each adds to what we know about cancer. Each brings us closer to cures.
In Part 1, we explained ways in which researchers are seeking to fight cancer through basic science.
In Part 2, we showed how researchers are trying to better understand risks and prevention.
In Part 3, we explored the search for new therapies.
Part 4: Bringing new treatments to the clinic via clinical trials
Novel drug combination brings promising results



clinical trials for cancer Clinical trials are crucial to improving treatment of ovarian and breast cancer. At City of Hope, one clinical trial seeks to help women with triple-negative breast cancer, another aims to improve radiation therapy and still another focuses on ovarian cancer.


A phase I clinical trial led by researchers at City of Hope has demonstrated the promise of a new drug combination for women with triple-negative breast cancer.

This type of breast cancer doesn’t produce any of the three proteins that common cancer therapies target — the identifying characteristic that gives it its name, and which makes it especially difficult to treat. The trial, led by Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., and George Somlo, M.D., both professors of medical oncology and therapeutics research, tests the common drug carboplatin in combination with a novel targeted therapy called a PARP inhibitor.

More than half of the women enrolled in the study responded to treatment with this PARP inhibitor — indicating remarkable results for women with this hard-to-treat cancer. Weitzel and Somlo presented these promising results at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

An alternative to radiation

Courtney Vito, M.D., assistant clinical professor of surgical oncology, is participating in a multi-institutional study on promising new treatment for women with breast cancer called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT).

Performed during lumpectomy surgery, a catheter is placed directly into the cavity where the tumor was removed and intense radiation is delivered directly to the cancer site for about 15 minutes. This brief procedure replaces six to seven weeks of daily radiation treatment and saves patients time and stress associated with travel.

More important, IORT can help patients avoid the devastating side effects of receiving radiation to an entire side of the chest — including weakened ribs, skin problems, scarring on the breast, and the risk of life-threatening second cancers.



An emerging treatment for ovarian cancer

Thanh Dellinger, M.D., assistant professor of gynecologic oncology, oversees a clinical trial to study hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) in women with ovarian cancer.

This emerging treatment involves chemotherapy that is heated to an elevated temperature and delivered inside the abdomen directly following surgery to remove the tumor. The warmed solution circulates throughout the peritoneal cavity to kill any microscopic cancer cells that may be left behind after all visible cancer is removed.

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of this treatment, this trial also studies how HIPEC impacts a woman’s quality of life, in collaboration with City of Hope’s Division of Nursing Research and Education. With this study, Dellinger will collect vital data on the efficacy and toxicity of HIPEC — shaping national standards of care for women.

Renowned oncologist joins Women’s Cancers Program

James Waisman, M.D., a highly respected and well-known expert on breast cancer, recently joined City of Hope's Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research.

Waisman has devoted his career to promoting a multidisciplinary model of treatment, in which an entire team works together to provide integrated care for patients. Since the beginning of his career, when he cared for women in a private medical practice, he has generated research and worked to set higher standards of care to promote his strong belief in this kind of patient-centered, collaborative treatment.

Waisman chose to come to City of Hope because of the opportunity to join a culture that regards patient care as central to healing, and in which this value for patients is integrated into research. He is also eager to teach young clinicians this patient-centered model of care.

Next: Part 5: Helping women thrive during, and after, treatment


Learn more about City of Hope's Women's Cancers Program





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