A new trend in medical treatment: personalized medicine to possibley cure some of the most deadly forms of cancer.
Keiona Clark, Breast Cancer Patient, says "my grandmother had breast cancer. So because she had breast cancer that was always a focus for me. I always checked, got regular checks."
Even though Keiona Clark was well aware of her breast cancer risk, the 37-year-old was still shocked when she found a lump underneath her right arm.
Keiona says "it's like you know you're going to be ok, but at the same time it makes you kind of accept the fact that you may not."
Clark was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a disease that is known to be more aggressive and less responsive to standard treatment. Her doctor didn't make her feel any better either.
Keiona says "she was like, oh my God. That's the worst kind you can have."
But instead of dwelling on her cancer, Clark found hope in a clinical trial at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Keiona says "I kind of felt like it was my duty because it runs in my family and I'm always trying to find a better way for people who may go through this also."
The trial is called I-Spy. It's purpose us to investigate whether a tumor's DNA can help determine what a type of treatment patients should undergo.
Oncologist Dr. Minetta Liu is leading the research,
Dr. Liu says "it's smarter. It's the hope that we can avoid unnecessary side effects from drugs that don't work and it's also hoping to speed things up to get the right drug to the right patient."
Currently, most breast cancer patients will undergo surgery first, then chemotherapy and possibly radiation. This trial is looking at whether using new types of drugs called biologics can help shrink tumors before patients ever get to surgery. The type of biologic a patient gets, depends on the DNA in their individual tumor.
Dr. Liu says "they target the specific machinery in tumor cells with the hope that then you have less side effects, because you're really targeting or honing in on cancer cells."
Since April, Keiona Clark has been going through chemotherapy once a week. She's also taking a pill twice a day. The whole process has left her feeling pretty sick. But at the same time, doctors have been giving her MRI's, so they can monitor how her tumor is responding to the treatment.
Keiona says "you can literally see the first MRI compared to the second MRI and you can see the difference in size."
Dr. Liu says "she's had a phenomenal response."
Doctors say they can't even feel Keiona's tumor anymore. They don't know whether or not it was the biologic medication, or the chemotherapy. Either way, everyone is thrilled with the results. Clark will still undergo a double mastectomy and radiation next month.
Now there's about 20 different hospitals across the country involved in this clinical trial and they're working with about 800 patients. They hope to have the study completed over the next few years.