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Clinical Trial of Cancer Drug Saves Life

Publication: KXAN-TV (NBC), Dallas-Fort Worth
01/02/2017

Immunotherapy may be changing the landscape of cancer-fighting drugs.

Rebecca Hill said an immunotherapy trial saved her life as she stood at death's door.

Two years ago, doctors told Hill they’d done all they could do and that hospice was her next step.

"We had already called out pastor. The church was praying for me. I was there. It was over. It was time for me to get planted," said Hill.

However, in early 2015, Hill was introduced to Dr. Katherine Wang, a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology-Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas who enrolled Rebecca in a clinical trial involving a study drug called Nivolumab.

Nivolumab medicine works with the immune system to interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells.

About 10 months later, Hill was in remission -- an extremely rare result for patients with advanced, stage IV lung cancer.

Hill is one of thousands of Texans who are participating in cancer research in large and small communities across the state. 

"Sometimes I think a clinical trial is the only way you can provide the best, cutting-edge therapy for the patients that have advanced stage cancer," said Hill.

Wang and Texas Oncology’s community-based approach helped Rebecca get access to an immunotherapy drug trial without having to disrupt her life by relocating to a distant hospital, according to a spokesperson for Texas Oncology.

"A clinical trial would be the only way to access new therapy that otherwise we can't get for those patients," said Wang.

Instead of killing cancer cells, immunotherapy can boost a patient's immune system to recognize and destroy the cancer cells more effectively, according to Wang.

Since Hill's trial, the Federal Drug Administration has approved Nivolumab for advanced stage lung and other cancers.