Janice GaNun - Patient Story
"A clinical trial was my only possibility for treatment."
— Janice GaNun, Pancreatic Patient
In 2008, Janice GaNun was halfway to her goal of section-hiking the Appalachian Trail when she hit a bump in the road. This active 57-year-old experienced GI symptoms and sought medical attention. Just hours after an ultrasound of her lower GI region, Janice received a phone call from her doctor, who delivered the frightening news that she had a large mass in her pancreas. “My doctor urged me to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center for diagnosis and, if possible, surgery,” she recalled. Janice saw medical oncologist Crystal S. Denlinger, MD, a member of the Fox Chase Cancer Center gastrointestinal cancer treatment team.
Tests revealed a rare, slow-growing cancer called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET). Because the tumor involved major blood vessels, surgery was not an option, and there was no effective Food and Drug Association (FDA)-approved treatment. "It was a frightening time," recalled Janice. "I had to trust that Dr. Denlinger would find an answer for me."
After an initial “watch and see” period, Dr. Denlinger confirmed that Janice’s tumor was growing, and encouraged her to enter a late-stage clinical trial. “Reading the consent form was scary, since the side effects had the potential to cause other problems,” said Janice. “Dr. Denlinger assured me that I’d be followed closely and would have 24/7 access to help but a clinical trial was my only possibility for treatment. I signed on and have never regretted it.”
Janice was pleased to report she experienced minimal side effects from the drug. “I received wonderful care by everyone in the Clinical Research Unit,” she said. “I even had my own protocol nurse who I could contact at any time with questions or concerns.” The trial worked well for more than a year, at which time the disease progressed. “A year later, the trial drug became FDA approved, and I felt good about the part I played in the process.”
Dr. Denlinger researched new trials and found another option for Janice. As soon as her blood count rebounded, Janice enrolled in another clinical trial. After almost a year on the study with little tumor growth, the disease progressed again, and was spreading to her liver. Dr. Denlinger acted swiftly and discovered a study that was evaluating the combination of an oral chemotherapy drug with a targeted drug. However, the drugs were only available through Northwestern University Medical Center in Chicago.
“Dr. Denlinger was persistent and worked with Fox Chase and Northwestern so that they could accommodate me in this long-distance trial," she recalled. "Due to my medical condition, doctors at both hospitals worked hard to limit my travel. The tumors initially shrunk and within a few weeks on the study I was feeling much better. I am now able to eat and sleep better, mostly pain-free, and I am enjoying life!” A great lover of the outdoors, Janice is back to spending time outside hiking, biking, kayaking and gardening.
“Throughout this ordeal, I’ve gone to other cancer centers, seen other oncologists, and received their opinions, but I’ve remained with Dr. Denlinger because she treats me as an individual, listening to my symptoms, my concerns, my goals, and she offers treatment plans that are right for me,” said Janice. “Dr. Denlinger always seems to have my best interests at heart. I focus on exercise, relaxation, and nutrition to keep myself in the best condition to fight my cancer, and I’ve gone back to complete hundreds more miles on the Appalachian Trail since this journey with cancer began. I put my trust in the medical professionals at Fox Chase to find the best way to slow the progression of my disease until some brilliant doctor finds a cure.”