News & Information | START In The News

April 4th, 2014
KSAT
By: Kirsten Schaffer, Producer

Cancer drug trial showing promise on how certain cancers are treated

SAN ANTONIO -

A cancer drug trial being done in San Antonio could mean big things for how certain cancers are treated.

So far, the drug has only been tested on people with cancer in advanced stages, who have tried other traditional FDA-approved treatments.

It's already rapidly changing one local woman's quality of life, as she fights cancer.

When Sharon Kunka's cancer came back in May of 2013, it took her by total surprise.

"Thought I was home free," said Kunka. "It had been five and a half years and [I] had no symptoms, was feeling wonderful, up and raising grandchildren and was just living life to the fullest."

Kunka had already undergone a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer in 2007. But years later, she began to experience symptoms.

"I started having a lot of GI upset and abdominal discomfort and of course in the back of my mind was, 'It's the cancer,'" said Kunka.

This time, the cancer had gotten to her lymphatic system.

Kunka turned to the doctors at the START center, a union of South Texas Oncology and Hematology (STOH) and South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics (START).

"We have found therapeutic strategies in the clinic that allow us to block cyclin-dependant kinases, or CDKs as they're known, and this allows us to slow down the progress of cancer," said Dr. Amita Patnaik, the associate director of clinical research at START.

Cancer can hijack the part of cells that help them reproduce, which essentially drives the creation of new cancer cells. But the drug is able to target cancerous cells by blocking their ability to produce new cells.

"What's most remarkable is that after four cycles of treatment, you can no longer see [cancer] hot spots," said Patnaik. "They've clearly disappeared."

The drug, which name has not been released, has less side effects, with patients experiencing only some nausea, and no hair loss.

"There are patients on this therapy that continue to work and essentially live a normal life," said Patnaik.

A normal life: something Sharon Kunka is living proof of.

"[My cancer] has decreased so much they can't hardly even see it. And that's what we like to hear!" said Kunka.

The findings will be presented at the American Association of Cancer Research annual meeting in San Diego, on Sunday.

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