UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 9

It was during that training that Maggie’s life completely changed – for reasons she would never expect. “Maggie and I started training together, and I noticed she was not progressing in the training plan. She would walk more than run,” recalls Maggie’s mother, Melissa Hanberry. “We entered a race, and we both finished, but several weeks later, she told me about some symptoms she had been having.” Maggie had been experiencing stomach pain and fatigue, and she had lost a good bit of weight. Her parents initially thought the problem could be treated with over-the-counter drugs and a change in diet, but the symptoms persisted. Upon seeing their family physician, Maggie confessed that in addition to her other symptoms, she had also been passing blood. Her doctor referred her to a pediatric gastroenterologist in nearby Jackson for further tests. “We were thinking it could be Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis – things that are fairly common for a teenage girl,” Mrs. Hanberry says. The doctor initially agreed, but ordered a colonoscopy to be sure, which delivered some unexpected news. “The doctor said she couldn’t even get in to do the colonoscopy from the bottom, because there was a mass there,” says Mrs. Hanberry. “That’s when I knew our lives were changing, when I heard the word ‘mass.’” That news was a shock to Maggie as well. “I was really confused, because that came out of the blue,” Maggie says. “Colon cancer for a 15-year- old is a one-in-a-million diagnosis. It wasn’t even something that was on my radar.” On April 7, 2014, Maggie was diagnosed with stage 4-b colon cancer, meaning that the cancer had already spread to a second organ; in Maggie’s case, her lungs. She immediately underwent surgery and began chemotherapy treatments at a children’s hospital in Jackson the following month. A few weeks into those treatments, she began radiation therapy. After a few months of treatment, Maggie had another surgery in August 2014, after which she continued on with her chemotherapy. Scans, however, revealed that the treatments were not working. She started a new chemotherapy that would require a three-day stay in the hospital every two weeks. She began that regimen in February 2014, nearly a year after her diagnosis. “Surprisingly, I started to gain more normalcy in my life because it was a consistent schedule with less side effects,” she says. Maggie initially had a positive response to the new treatment and was able to stop chemotherapy altogether nearly a year later, in January 2016. That May, she returned for a follow-up scan only to find that her cancer was growing again. She again began chemotherapy, and over the course of the summer, doctors discovered more bad news – the cancer had spread to her liver. “We thought we were just dealing with micro- disease in her lungs, which we thought we could treat and keep stable,” Mrs. Hanberry says. “We knew her disease was systemic, but we knew then we didn’t have the control over it that we thought.” While many institutions offer phase I studies, UAB is one of the few academic medical centers Treatment Close to Home conducting phase Seeing that the chemotherapy was not working, Maggie’s oncologist in Jackson suggested that participating in a clinical trial might be the best option for her. The Hanberrys took their daughter to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who agreed with the recommendation and encouraged them to find a phase I clinical trial. “The oncologist recommended finding something close to home. UAB was the first place that came to mind,” says Mrs. Hanberry. Mrs. Hanberry began searching online for clinical trial options, which led her to UAB’s Phase I Clinical Trials Unit, which is solely dedicated to conducting all phase I clinical studies at UAB. Phase I trials are unique because they involve drugs never before tested in humans, and at UAB, are led by a team specifically dedicated to phase I studies. While I studies through # K N O W U A B C C C • a cohesive team approach. This allows patients access to novel drugs and therapies otherwise not available, while benefiting scientific research. U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 7