For 73-year-old Antoinette (Toni) DuBois West, the notion of compassionate care at Sutter came full circle when a clinical trial offered at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento offered her new hope for better cancer treatment.
I feel incredibly encouraged by my progress so far...
A Galt, CA resident, Toni worked as a radiological technologist for 46 years at Sutter Medical Center before retiring in 2015.
But the decades that Toni spent in the field of cancer care became much more personal when she was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer in October 2020. The tumor was inoperable, but PET scans showed it had not metastasized (or, spread) to other organs.
“Hearing the diagnosis, I was shocked and emotional. But my first thought was my sons, and how difficult it would be to share the news with them,” says Toni.
Advanced pancreatic cancer—one of the most aggressive types of the illness—typically comes with few options for treatment. Toni was given three cycles of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, but blood tests and CT scans revealed that these treatments only resulted in a small shrinkage of her tumor.
Toni’s family doctor referred her to Christopher Laing, M.D., a Sutter cancer researcher and interventional radiologist with sub-specialization in interventional oncology. Dr. Laing had begun a new clinical trial called the TIGeR-PaC Study taking place at Sutter Medical Center, through the Sutter Institute for Medical Research (SIMR).
The TIGeR-PaCStudy was being offered to patients like Toni, who suffer from locally advanced, inoperable pancreatic tumors where the tumor has not yet metastasized. Patients who meet the criteria for participating in the TIGeR-PaC Study are enrolled to the clinical trial before starting treatment for pancreatic cancer.
“Having worked at Sutter my entire career and seeing the care provided to patients, it has been incredibly comforting to receive such excellent care now that I’m a patient too,” says Toni. “When I learned of the clinical trial, I had no hesitation saying ‘yes’ to a new door that had opened up in my journey with cancer and which might provide new insights to improve the treatment of pancreatic cancer—for me and for other people who may be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.”
Sutter is the only site in Northern California offering the clinical trial. The Phase 3 study is testing localized, intra-arterial gemcitabine versus systemic intravenous gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel following radiotherapy.
But unlike some other pancreatic cancer clinical trials that are designed to study investigational drugs, TIGeR-PaC is testing a new method of drug delivery with a technology made by RenovoRx called RenovoCath™. During the procedure, a catheter is placed into the major artery adjacent to the tumor and the chemotherapy is delivered through the arterial wall so it can reach the adjacent tumor.The procedure—called RenovoTAMPTM (trans-arterial micro perfusion)—is done with RenovoCath™.
“This technology uses a technique unseen in any other cancer treatment to date,” says Dr. Laing. “We are proud to offer Sutter patients the opportunity to enroll into clinical trials like TIGeR-PaC that are on the cutting edge of new science, treatments and technologies.”
Toni began receiving induction treatment in November 2020 with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, to help prepare her body for the study treatment. In April 2021, she received her first dose of chemotherapy administered through the specialized catheter. Toni will continue to receive the study treatment once every two weeks, for a total of eight doses.
“I have experienced no treatment-related side effects and feel incredibly encouraged by my progress so far as part of this clinical trial,” says Toni. Blood tests that have been performed since Toni enrolled in the clinical trial to assess levels of specific tumor markers show that Toni has responded to the therapy.