Breast Cancer Patient Enrolls in Clinical Trials to Help Others

Eliana's Breast Cancer Diagnosis

While dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, Eliana thought about helping other people. "My advice is, start thinking of another person. You can help many people in the future by enrolling in a clinical trial. Even if I help one other person, that is enough," she says. Eliana's doctor, Kerin Adelson, MD, calls her "the poster child for clinical trials" because she participated in not just one, but two different clinical trials at different stages of her breast cancer.

Enrolling in Two Cancer Clinical Trials

When Eliana was first diagnosed, she learned that she had a type of breast cancer that made her a candidate for receiving neoadjuvant therapy, where chemotherapy was administered before her surgery. "Eliana joined a very important cooperative group clinical trial comparing different regimens and looking at the rate of tumor disappearance at the time of surgery," says Dr. Adelson. The study was randomized, and Eliana was selected to be in the control arm of the trial where she received the standard of care. According to Dr. Adelson, "Eliana had an incredible outcome receiving the standard treatment, and actually had no cancer left when she went to surgery."

While undergoing follow-up care with Dr. Adelson, Eliana decided to enroll in another clinical trial for breast cancer patients who had completed surgery. This clinical trial looked at a drug that has been used for many years in the treatment of diabetes. Studies suggest the drug may be able to reduce the recurrence of breast cancer.

During this trial, Eliana experienced side effects that she could not tolerate. Even then, she did not regret her decision to join the trial, because she knew she could opt out of the trial at any time, for any reason, and could talk to her doctor and health care team about her side effects. "Everything is your decision – if you feel something that is not normal, you tell your doctor," says Eliana. Dr. Adelson explains, "There is no way I would make her take a drug twice a day that made her feel sick, so we came up a plan that worked for Eliana, made her feel ok, and still gave valuable information to the study."

Advancing Medicine through Clinical Trials

"Over the last 30 years, we've made enormous inroads in treating women with breast cancer –because women enrolled in clinical trials that have allowed us to development new treatments. I need to know not just that I'm taking care of patients I see on a daily basis, but that I'm helping the next generation of women who get diagnosed with breast cancer," says Dr. Adelson.

Dr. Adelson describes Eliana as "an incredibly giving person" and says "I was ready to go to the end of the earth for this woman and her family." Now, when Eliana introduces herself, she says "I'm a breast cancer patient," then corrects herself and says, "a survivor."

View the Clinical Trials at The Tisch Cancer Institute: Moving the Field Forward video.