Over the past few years, there's been increased awareness of pancreatic cancer with the deaths of actor Patrick Swayze, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Right now, jeopardy host Alex Trebek is fighting a public battle with the disease. But researchers are testing RenovoCath, a revolutionary new way to deliver chemotherapy that is giving patients hope by extending lives.
Seventy-year old Darlene Bossola had been intentionally losing weight last year to fight diabetes, but then the mother of three and grandmother of seven became jaundiced. Doctors diagnosed Bossola with inoperable stage three pancreatic cancer.
"So of course, you want to do something that's going to help you, along with your family, then eventually help others," said Bossola.
Bossola chose to be part of a clinical trial testing a new way of delivering chemotherapy directly to pancreatic tumors.
Every other week for eight weeks, Bossola was wheeled into an operating room at UPMC in Pittsburgh. Doctors treat the tumor using a double balloon catheter called RenovoCath. Radiologists thread it through the groin into the vessels near the pancreas. They inflate the balloons, then deliver chemo.
Paula Novelli, MD, FSIR, Associate Professor of Radiology, Division of Interventional Radiology at UPMC said, "We're actually forcing the chemotherapy into the tumor, as opposed to spraying it on the outside, like we would with the liver."
So far, the trial has shown to extend the lives of some pancreatic patients significantly.
"This is huge. We have a patient who is three years out. Our longest survival at this point," Dr. Novelli said.
Bossola said, "All my levels are down, I feel great. It needs to be offered to everyone."
For Bossola, married 48 years to her high school sweetheart, Terry, it's precious time with the people who mean the most.
The trial for the RenovoCath is called TIGeR-PaC. Researchers are enrolling 300 patients at 30 sites in the U.S. through the end of 2021. So far, the trial has shown to extend the lives of pancreatic patients from 14 months to 26 months.
Contributors: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.
Health watch: A new way to treat pancreatic cancer