Buddy Check 7: Clinical trials for cancer treatment help future patients

Published: Mar. 8, 2016 at 12:19 AM CST
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After a long day's work as a dental hygienist, you'll often find Renee Urbans at Edgewood Stable in Custer.

The business of boarding horses and riding lessons may belong to her mom, but it's the love of the animal that's shared.

"I was riding before I could walk," smiled Urbans.

Rewind back a year and a half, and this active lifestyle was very different. After a mammogram, Urbans received the news no one can prepare for.

"They gave me a call a day later and said we really want to meet with you, and they said, 'You have cancer.'

She was only 38 years old at the time.

"It was pretty much a whirlwind from that point on," Urbans said.

But Urbans took a rare journey through her chemotherapy treatment and opted to participate in clinical trials through Marshfield Clinic. The clinic is part of the oncology research program through the National Cancer Institute.

"we're able to access many trials, hundreds of trials through this network," explained Brian Zaleski, the Clinical Research Administrator at Marshfield Clinic.

Zaleski says Marshfield Clinic is the only place in this area that's able to do so.

"If it's a cutting-edge drug or different type of treatment, we're able to provide that to the patients, and also it helps us because we want to provide the best care," Zaleski added.

"Only about 3-5% of people who are eligible for a trial would be willing to get on it and follow through with the treatments," explained Laura Lauer.

As a clinical research nurse, Lauer screens cancer patients for trial eligibility.

She said Urbans was a prime candidate based on factors like her age, health and stage of disease.

In fact, Urbans volunteered for trials on two separate occasions, one before her double mastectomy and another after.

"Even gone through an extra biopsy for the trial just, because she wanted to contribute to the future," Lauer said.

Groups of trial participants were randomly given one of two drugs.

"Both times I had the standard of care, so I would kind of be the control against the new drug," said Urbans.

Still, the treatment is a painful one.

"Hopefully through the trial and everything, they'll have information that can help for new medications and maybe at some point, people won't have to suffer as badly," Urbans explained. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

Through the pain of the process, she says she has no regrets.

"If I could prevent someone else from having to do that, I'm all for it."

All for taking one for the team of cancer patients, who go through grueling treatments day in and day out.

"I understand the importance of research for the next generation of people that are going to have to go through this, and all aboard, definitely," Urbans said.

So that next generation can waste no time getting back to doing what they love.