True Colors

Pat Theobald, Pancreatic Cancer Patient and Clinical Trials Participant

Pat Theobald, Pancreatic Cancer Patient and Clinical Trials Participant

It’s a routine. Every two weeks, Pat Theobald and one of her family members stop for bagels — then make the hour-long trip from their home in Dunnellon, Florida to the UF Health Davis Cancer Pavilion in Gainesville, where she receives chemotherapy.

When Theobald, 63, was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2013, she was told she had at most a year to live. It’s been 16 months this July.

Because her mother died from the same disease six years ago, Theobald knew what she wanted to do with her remaining time: enjoy her family, and help future pancreatic cancer patients. To that end, she became an advocate for pancreatic cancer awareness and joined a Phase II clinical trial through the UF Health Cancer Center.

“There’s lots of misinformation out there,” she says. “Go ahead and educate yourself, but don’t be afraid of the trial itself. I went into it wholeheartedly, and it turned out to be even better than I anticipated.”

First, an oncologist reviewed her options regarding the trial, and Theobald discussed it with her two daughters — a cancer researcher and a nurse practitioner who, after asking many questions, encouraged their mother to participate. Asking questions is crucial, Theobald says.

“There’s lots of misinformation out there,” she says. “Go ahead and educate yourself, but don’t be afraid of the trial itself. I went into it wholeheartedly, and it turned out to be even better than I anticipated.”

In her experience, participation in the clinical trial has meant more professionals watching over her treatment and giving her individual attention, Theobald said. The clinical trial staff also value patient feedback as a high priority, she said.

“For me, this translates into decreased anxiety and increased security. This is so important to a patient who is in a tough battle.”

This March, Theobald celebrated the one-year mark at a steakhouse with friends, family — and a pineapple martini.

“I feel that being in this clinical trial has helped me to beat my initial prognosis, and has given me the greatest gift: more quality time to spend with family and friends, and I am very grateful.”

—Marilee Griffin

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Summer 2014

Paul Okunieff, M.D

From the Director’s Desk

Clinical trials are at the heart of every advancement in treating cancer, yet lack of understanding about the benefits, risks and opportunities that trials offer can sometimes prevent patients from taking advantage of the newest drugs and treatments they make available.

To Kill a Tumor

Researchers in the UF Health Precision Cancer Care Program are identifying the genes of lung and colon cancer tumors, forming the first center in the state to perform this testing for solid tumors. By identifying particular gene mutations that drive cancers, physicians can deliver better, more targeted treatments to those cancers.

The Great Unknown

Each year, more than 1,000 patients take part in clinical trials at the UF Health Cancer Center. All are helping UF researchers chip away at the great unknown: what makes each person’s cancer tick, and how to stop that ticking without causing harm to the patient over the course of treatment.

Clear As A Bell

UF Health cancer patients and their treatment teams rang the Liminal Bell, an art installation consisting of a bell created from an oxygen tank that is suspended from an oak beam structure. The word liminal is derived from the Latin word “limen,” which means “threshold.”

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