From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders
August 4, 2023
This article originally appeared in venuecincinnati.com. Story by Laura Mann. Photography by Leah Davies.
In March 2018, Madeline “Maddie” Gillotte, a pre-kindergarten teacher from Pleasant Ridge, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive type found most commonly in women younger than 40. TNBC tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2 protein, so it does not respond to hormonal therapies or medicines that target HER2 protein receptors. Furthermore, TNBC grows and spreads faster than other types of breast cancer.
“After my diagnosis, I was willing to try anything,” Gillotte recalls. She was referred by her breast surgeon to OHC medical oncologist, hematologist, and Director of Clinical Research Patrick J. Ward, M.D., Ph.D.
Gillotte’s OHC team explained her treatment plan, breaking it into steps using information and visual aids. She knew exactly what her plan of action was going to entail.
“Once I met Maddie and learned more about her disease, I recommended participating in the KEYNOTE-522 trial,” says Dr. Ward. This was a clinical trial investigating the addition of immunotherapy to standard chemotherapy. This combination had shown positive results in other clinical scenarios and was being studied in Gillotte’s situation.
“As a result of this research, we showed that this was a more effective treatment that resulted in fewer breast cancer recurrences, and most importantly, fewer breast cancer deaths,” Dr. Ward notes.
A Dedicated Research Program
OHC has helped patients fight cancer for more than 38 years. It’s the region’s largest independent adult cancer practice, and its dedicated research program has extensive experience with clinical trials. Clinical trials can provide access to newer treatments that are typically unavailable to the public. KEYNOTE-522, for example, was a trial that investigated using Keytruda (pembrolizumab) alongside chemotherapy instead of just providing chemotherapy alone.
Gillotte began treatment in April 2018 and had a mastectomy later that year. Her pathology tests were clear after she completed her treatments and therapy in May 2019. According to Dr. Ward, pathology test results like Gillotte’s translate into fewer recurrences and better outcomes.
“We were able to provide Maddie with cutting-edge technology,” Dr. Ward continues. “Because of her willingness to participate in the KEYNOTE-522 trial and her trust in OHC, she helped to improve the standard of care for others with TNBC worldwide.”
OHC’s clinical trials help researchers secure the necessary information for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2021, the FDA approved Keytruda for high-risk early-stage TNBC in combination with chemotherapy.
“This Keytruda combination is the first immunotherapy regimen approved for high-risk, early-stage TNBC,” explains Dr. Ward. “Clinical trials are how we get better at raising the standard of care for cancer treatment.
“Some patients hesitate to participate in clinical trials, but they shouldn’t,” he adds. “We have an army of professionals closely monitoring our patients. Moreover, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network states that the best care for any cancer patient is participating in a clinical trial.”
If you are diagnosed with cancer, don’t hesitate to ask your physician if they participate in clinical research or if you can be referred to a center that does, Dr. Ward advises. He notes that part of clinical trial participation includes monitoring your progress following your clinical trial participation with OHC to confirm a drug’s safety, effectiveness and side effects.
“I never would have thought about clinical trials until my physician presented me with the idea,” Gillotte notes. “I feel so lucky. I was all for it. I figured if it helps me, fabulous; if not, it might help someone else in the future.”
Gillotte continues to go to after-treatment appointments with OHC and she remains cancer-free.
“OHC gives me a sense of calm and a feeling of home when I visit. My questions are always answered, and I feel heard. I just love them so much.”
Compassion and excellent patient care are OHC trademarks. “Each of our patients is treated as a member of our family. We surround them with the support they need to help them during this difficult journey,” shares Dr. Ward.
And Gillotte agrees. “That’s a promise they keep,” she says. “They have offered me hope. I am five years out and spending time with friends, crafting, traveling and even enjoying wild things like axe throwing!”
“I believe we are at the tip of the spear with cancer treatment,” Dr. Ward says. “There are now more options for treating cancer than traditional chemotherapy, and OHC is at the forefront of the efforts to develop these therapies.
Cellular therapy gives doctors tools to fight cancer using the patient’s immune system. OHC was the first, most experienced, and only certified independent adult practice to offer the revolutionary immunotherapy treatments chimeric antigen receptors T-cell therapy (CAR-T) and natural killer (NK) cell therapy.
CAR-T is a treatment that extracts thousands of T-cells from a patient or donor. The cells “retrain” the body’s immune system to fight cancer and are infused back into the patient. Once infused, the cells continue to multiply independently and will recognize and kill cancer cells while also helping guard the patient against cancer recurrence. There are also CRISPR/Cas-9 edited NK cell therapies in development. These are “off-the-shelf” modified immune cells that are able to engage the body’s innate and adaptive immune responses to fight cancer. It is important to note that these treatments do not involve the extraction of the patient’s T-cells.
The FDA has approved six CAR-T therapies thanks to clinical trials, and more are continuing to be evaluated, Dr. Ward notes. OHC offers NK cell therapies through its clinical trials program.
Genetic Targeted Therapy
“Cancer treatments have become more customizable,” Dr. Ward says. OHC provides targeted therapy, which is a more personalized approach to cancer treatment. Different from traditional chemotherapy, targeted therapy uses drugs to treat cancer by finding the cancer’s specific abnormal genes, proteins or tissue environment that contribute to the cancer’s growth. Advanced genomic testing, termed NexGen sequencing, is done on a patient’s specific tumor. This process identifies the DNA alterations that may be driving the growth of a specific tumor.
Information about genomic mutations that are unique to a patient’s individual cancer helps doctors identify treatments designed to target those mutations. The drugs block and turn off the signals that promote the growth of cancer cells, or they destroy cancer cells altogether. These targeted therapies are currently available for breast, colorectal, lung and melanoma cancer patients.
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cancer? To make an appointment, learn more about the clinical trials program, or request a second opinion from a member of OHC’s team of cancer experts, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit ohcare.com.Comments (0)