Metro hospital system to be part of clinical trial to shorten recovery from breast cancer

ATLANTA — For the past few months, Channel 2 Action News has been sharing the journeys of two of our own who were diagnosed with breast cancer: Anchor Wendy Corona and retired Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Karen Minton.

It’s a process, and for many, the last step is radiation therapy, which could take up to 7 weeks to complete.

A clinical trial is underway here in metro Atlanta that is aiming to create a new standard of care to dramatically decrease the length of treatment.

Piedmont Healthcare’s medical director of radiation oncology, Dr. Adam Nowlan, is working toward giving women back time.

“To have them unnecessarily coming in for extra weeks of radiotherapy is something that doesn’t sit well with me,” Nowlan said.

As an MD Anderson Cancer Network partner, Piedmont and partner hospitals across the country are enrolling women with early-stage breast cancer that did not reach the lymph nodes in a clinical trial.

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“I have a chance to take what would’ve been a four-week course of treatment and condense it into a week or week and a half,” Nowlan said.

“That’s really been one of my personal missions is to give our patients their lives back,” said Dr. Benjamin Smith who is with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas

Smith is the trial’s principal investigator.

“We’re actually quite optimistic that come spring or summer 2022, we will be able to complete enrollment of patients on our clinical trial,” Smith said.

The trials will then be followed by five years of annual patient follow up.

Clinical trials abroad secured shorter, effective treatment for patients in the UK, Canada and Australia.

This trial could shift the standard of care in the US.

“That would dramatically improve the ability of that patient to get back to their life. To get back to all of the things that they were doing before they got that diagnosis of breast cancer,” Nowlan said.

Smith said Atlanta’s metro provides care to a diverse population, which is key for clinical trials. Without the partner networks, the study could take three times longer to complete.

An added benefit for those involved is having the team at MD Anderson, one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, also studying every detail of a person’s case and treatment plan.

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