SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A significant stride in the world of medicine has roots in Sarasota. On Thursday, a local woman’s lung cancer treatment was approved by the FDA.
Pamela Klein is calling the medicine a game changer. She said when someone is diagnosed with cancer, many doctors will recommend they immediately start chemotherapy or radiation. But this new treatment targets the mutation instead and it’s one Klein never would have known about without a clinical trial.
As she looked out to the canal behind her home, Klein remembered back to four years ago when her whole life quickly changed.
“I would get up to have a shower, but I wouldn’t have enough energy and I wouldn’t be able to get enough air, and energy to actually get dressed,” said Klein.
She was a 45-year-old, avid tennis player. A mom of two, who never even ate fast food. Perfectly healthy, until a cough, first thought to be a cold, then asthma, was really several tumors in her lungs.
“So I did have radiation and in fact, the machine was pointed to 12 different locations around my body all aiming here, but to try to avoid my heart,” showed Klein.
Still her health continued to decline, until she enrolled in her second clinical trial.
“Literally the week before I went on it, I didn’t know if it was my last two days,” she said.
Doctors found that her tumors had a rare gene mutation called ROS1. This is what drives the cancer, so during that trial, Florida Cancer Specialists decided to try something new. Klein took a pill called Rozlytrek that so far has specifically blocked the proteins her gene mutations need in order to grow.
“The cancer’s still there, it’s driven by my own genes, but it doesn’t grow. So as long as the medicine works, I can have a fairly normal life,” she said.
But Klein said it doesn’t just treat her version of lung cancer.
“This is a medicine that’s specifically for mutations that are driving the cancer," said Klein. "My particular mutation, they’ve found in like nine different cancers.”
Pancreatic, ovarian, colon, breast cancer, just to name a few, which is why Klein is telling her story. She is urging those who have just been diagnosed to do their research before going straight to chemotherapy.
After eight months of taking Rozlytrek, her tumors had shrunk significantly. Now it’s been three years of taking what she called the miracle medicine.
She did add though that since cancer is smart, one day the Rozlytrek will probably stop working. At that point, she plans to enroll in another clinical trial.