The brain tumor initiative at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Patients matched to clinical trials based on genomic markers
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Dr. Macarena De La Fuente is a neuro-oncologist with Sylvester’s Brain Tumor Initiative. To find out more about clinical trials for patients with brain tumors, call 305-243-1000 or visit the UHealth health news blog.
Eryn Campbell was a newly-enrolled college student in New Jersey when she was diagnosed with the most aggressive type of brain tumor, a glioblastoma.
“My prognosis in 2015 was six to nine months. When I found out, everyone in the room just burst into tears,” says Eryn.
Eryn was treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but her cancer returned in a place too deep within the brain to reach with surgery. That’s when Eryn was referred to Sylvester, where she was matched to a clinical trial offering a targeted treatment for tumors with certain genomic characteristics.
Dr. Macarena De La Fuente, a neuro-oncologist with Sylvester’s Brain Tumor Initiative, leads the clinical trial and continues to oversee Eryn’s treatment. “In her case, we identified one mutation and we were able to enroll her on a clinical trial with a drug that targets that specific mutation,” says Dr. De La Fuente. “That is what we call targeted therapy.”
Eryn travels each month, six hours roundtrip, from the west coast of Florida to Sylvester. At her appointment, Dr. De La Fuente monitors her progress and gives Eryn the next month’s medication. She has an MRI scan every two months to check the status of the tumor.
Eryn takes nine pills daily, and they have kept her cancer from growing. “We are excited to see that Eryn’s tumor has reduced in size by 50 percent over more than two and half years on this clinical trial,” says Dr. De La Fuente. “We don’t see this very often when we treat glioblastoma.”
Clinical trials are an important option for patients with brain tumors, says Dr. De La Fuente. She says through these studies, patients have access to promising experimental treatments that otherwise are not available for patients with brain tumors.
At Sylvester, the Brain Tumor Initiative team analyzes brain tumors to find their genomic alterations and match patients with an appropriate clinical trial. “Using this new precision medicine approach, we know the alterations that a particular tumor type has and we can design clinical trials to target those specific alterations,” says Dr. De La Fuente.
As a result of her participation in this study, Eryn continues to defy the odds. She works full-time, enjoys her friends and family, and travels. “It’s been almost five years now and I’m still doing great,” says Eryn. “I don’t feel any side effects. I live a normal life.”
“She can keep moving forward in her life, working full time and doing the things she enjoys,” says Dr. De La Fuente. “We are helping the patients living the life that they want to live. That is the key.”
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