by Scott Nelson
I come from a family with a BRCA2 genetic mutation. My Mom tested positive for the mutation in 2001. Her mother and grandmother both died from cancer at a relatively young age. I was tested in 2002 and found to be positive for the same gene mutation.
Pancreatic cancer: My first diagnosis and clinical trial
In July of 2004, following an examination for some digestive issues, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My cancer was initially classified as inoperable, given the size and location of the tumor. My doctors at the University of Minnesota (now MHealth Fairview) offered me participation in a clinical trial in an effort to shrink the tumor and make surgery possible. The clinical trial medications were chemotherapy (5FU and cisplatin) and immunotherapy (interferon), combined with radiation. The treatments worked for me, and I was able to have surgery to remove the cancer. Doctors at Mayo Clinic confirmed the diagnosis, my clinical trial treatments were at the University of Minnesota and my Whipple surgery to remove the pancreatic cancer was at Allina Hospital in Minneapolis.
Prostate cancer: My second diagnosis and clinical trial with an important assist from FORCE
In July of 2022, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This cancer was also initially deemed to be inoperable given the size and location of the tumor. This time, I was familiar with the important work that FORCE does on behalf of families like mine. I searched their website for information and found a clinical trial that appeared to match what I needed. It was a parp inhibitor clinical trial at the University of California Davis (UC Davis). I spoke to my doctors at the University of Minnesota about this study; they reached out to the UC Davis doctors and they all agreed to work together on my behalf. It meant that I was able to have my treatments and weekly testing in Minnesota where I live, with coordination and regular communication with the UC Davis doctors. This combined effort made this clinical trial possible for me. The treatments worked, my tumor shrank and I had surgery last month (February 2023) at the Mayo Clinic to remove the prostate cancer.
Collaboration and cooperation between cancer centers, along with critical information from FORCE helped me find the treatments I needed, and it saved my life. Twice.
For information on cancer prevention, treatment and quality-of-life studies that are enrolling people with or at high risk for hereditary cancer, visit FORCE’s Featured Research page.