Oct. 12ROCKFORD Since receiving a stage 2A breast cancer diagnosis in September 2015, there have been instances where OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center registered nurse Maria "Thess" Superticioso has had the opportunity to share her experience with cancer patients she's treated.
"We're on the same page; we share the same story," the Machesney Park resident, 42, said. "They feel better and I feel better, too."
Superticioso sought treatment at OSF's Patricia D. Pepe Center for Cancer Care and said the time following her diagnosis was a "whirlwind," with multiple hospital visits for MRIs and CAT scans. Because her cancer was classified as triple negative meaning the cancer cells don't have hormone receptors, she said Superticioso was approached by her doctors to take part in the Brightness Study, a clinical trial testing treatment medication specifically for triple-negative breast cancer. She agreed.
"They give you some time to think about it, but everything happens so fast," she said. "I went through the pages (of the study), but I didn't retain anything. ... It's a part of your life that you want to forget."
The Brightness Study is one of 16 breast cancer clinical trials in which OSF is involved, said Mark Rogers, lead clinical research coordinator at OSF. Aside from having a triple-negative breast cancer, those who qualify must be 18 years old or older, never have had therapy for breast cancer and are not pregnant or do not plan to conceive a child.
Other breast cancer studies include the PALLAS trial, for pre- and postmenopausal women or men with stage II or stage III early invasive breast cancer; and the PATINA trial, for patients with metastatic breast cancer that is both hormone receptor-positive and HER2-positive.
Rogers said OSF has been conducting oncology clinical trials since its cancer center opened in the mid-1990s. The studies currently follow 42 women, most of whom live within a close distance of the cancer center, and they can last for 10-15 years, he said.
Those involved in a clinical trial receive "an extra component" to their regular treatment, which Rogers said could be an extra medication or, sometimes, a holistic approach.
"We follow a standard of care that outlines a particular patient's diagnosis," he said. "When it comes to clinical trials, we ask what we can add to treatment. ... There are some studies that look at lifestyle, weight control, diet and exercise components of research that we do in cancer prevention and recurrence."
OSF oncologist Dr. Shylendra B. Sreenivasappa is overseeing the trials and explained that, with regard to pharmaceutical trials, subjects are involved in one of three phases, each with a specific goal. The first phase is to see whether patients can tolerate a drug, the second phase works to determine the right dose, and the third phase aims to pinpoint the efficiency of the drug how and when it works best. Sreenivasappa said the hospital is generally involved in the third phase of the trials.
Rogers said there are a plethora of qualifications for each trial, making it difficult for patients to meet criteria.
"It's an apples to apples thing," he said. "Women need to be as similar as possible, particularly with staging and diagnosis."
Superticioso was declared cancer-free in April 2016 following her double mastectomy, but she will continue to be monitored at varying intervals for 10 years as part of the Brightness Study. She considers her involvement in the study as beneficial both personally and for others who receive a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis in the future.
"I was afraid for myself, but I told my doctor to do whatever he needed to do. I wasn't afraid of the pain," said Superticioso, who credits her husband, Vincent, and daughter, Erin Lynsy, 3, as being her primary sources of strength. "I rejoiced and thanked God for getting me to the point where I am right now, but it's still a continuous battle."
Sarah Wolf: 815-987-1283; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarahcrieswolf
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