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    Trial of a Lifetime: Martha Fitzpatrick's Story

    Martha Fitzpatrick is helping to find a cure for cancer in a way she never imagined.

    Fitzpatrick, from South Plymouth, was offered the option to enter a clinical trial after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. M. Bernadette Ryan, MD, a thoracic and oncology surgeon at Bassett Medical Center, informed Fitzpatrick that her cancer type fit the profile for a study being conducted at Bassett Cancer Institute.

    “At first, I was startled,” Fitzpatrick says. “I thought patients only entered clinical trials as a last-ditch effort after all other treatment options have failed.”

    Nadene Willcox, RN, an oncology research nurse at Bassett Cancer Institute, explained misconceptions about clinical trials. “The truth is, they can offer innovative treatments to patients at different stages of cancer,” Willcox says.

    For the 1.2 million Americans who face a cancer diagnosis each year, choosing the best course of treatment can be overwhelming. Bassett participates in National Cancer Institute clinical research protocols that provide new drugs and innovative combinations with standard treatments.

    For Fitzpatrick, Bassett Cancer Institute was the best choice she ever made.

    Innovative Treatment Close to Home

    “I had no idea that Bassett conducts clinical research for cancer,” says Fitzpatrick. “The more I researched it, I discovered that I was being offered the most quality treatment I could encounter … and it’s not far from home.”

    After undergoing surgery, Fitzpatrick entered the clinical trial and received a promising new drug for her cancer type. “It took my breath away how innovative Bassett Cancer Institute’s approach to treating cancer is,” Fitzpatrick says.

    Fitzpatrick completed treatment in 2014, and as part of the clinical trial, Bassett Cancer Institute will monitor her health for 10 years. “It feels wonderful to contribute to research,” says Fitzpatrick. “I have a part in finding a cure.”

    “I always encourage my patients to consider clinical trials if there are any available for them,” says Dr. Ryan. “This ensures that they have access to the best care and improves treatment for all patients.”

    Clinical Trials at Bassett: Christopher Kuhn's Journey

    “It was just a little mole,” reflected Christopher Kuhn, a patient who came to see surgeon Dr. Bernadette Ryan at Bassett Medical Center for a seemingly routine mole removal. Christopher was ultimately diagnosed with melanoma in 2013. “She [Dr. Ryan] talked a bit about the cancer options, which is pretty much interferon . . . and the opportunity to go into a study.”

    Christopher entered a clinical trial for melanoma in 2014 at Bassett Cancer Institute in Cooperstown. “From what we’d researched, this was the best option available, and it was available locally,” explains LeeAnn Kuhn, Christopher’s wife.

    “Here was an opportunity to contribute. Here was an opportunity to be part of a study that could help,” states Christopher. “I’m very grateful. I think the experience itself made me a better person.”

    Listen to Christopher’s story in the four-part video series via the YouTube links on the right.