Retired nurse part of first-in-human cancer treatment

HonorHealth patient Gerry Greaves

Geraldine “Gerry” G. is being treated with a new medication that targets ovarian cancer, even though the retired nurse from Goodyear, Ariz., no longer has ovaries.

She had her ovaries removed nearly three decades ago as part of a full hysterectomy to address previous non-cancerous health conditions.

Still, following Gerry’s diagnosis eight years ago of primary peritoneal carcinoma — cancer of the abdominal cavity — she has been treated as if she has ovarian cancer.

After her cancer progressed on a previous clinical trial medication, she recently entered another clinical trial of a first-in-human experimental treatment. The medication’s effect is to enhance immune cell infiltration of the tumor and to inhibit tumor cell proliferation. The HonorHealth Research Institute is one of only 12 sites studying the medication’s safety and effectiveness.

For Gerry, the trial is giving her the energy to do more things around the house without the upset stomach, fatigue and other negative side effects of her previous trial. Her cancer had spread to both lungs, right kidney and a lump on the lower right ribcage.

Not experiencing side effects

“This one doesn’t seem to have any side effects; I’m not losing my hair or anything,” shares Gerry, who worked for 43 years as a director of operating room services in Massachusetts, an operating room nursing director in Rhode Island and — in her last decade before retirement — as a perioperative nurse educator for a Phoenix-area hospital. “I just hope that it slows the growth of my cancer.”

Gerry says she has no illusions of a cure; she is just grateful that she’s been able to live with her cancer as long as she has. Under the guidance of Frank Tsai, MD, a cancer investigator at the HonorHealth Research Institute and an independent member of the HonorHealth Medical Staff, she hopes this new clinical trial will extend her life even more.

She moved to Phoenix with her husband, Charles, in 1998, in part because there is no snow. They moved to the West Valley community of Goodyear after she retired in 2008 to be closer to friends. Gerry was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and had surgery to remove tumors in 2016 and 2018. In 2021, after her cancer spread, she was referred by Mike Janicek, MD, her gynecological oncologist and an independent member of the HonorHealth Medical Staff, to Dr. Tsai and soon began her first clinical trial.

Receiving excellent care

As a long-time nurse, Gerry knows a thing or two about the profession.

“My care has been excellent,” she says of Dr. Tsai, the nurse practitioners, nurses and team at the Institute. “They’re friendly. They’re always upbeat. They’re very helpful. They’ll do anything that I ask them to do for me. I don’t think I could ask for better care. They’re all very helpful; very knowledgeable.”

She counsels other patients considering clinical trials to ask a lot of questions, thoroughly read consent forms and make sure they understand all the tests and procedures ahead of time. “You need to ask questions and understand everything that is going to be expected of you,” she says.

After nearly two-and-a-half years visiting the Institute, Gerry shares, “It feels familiar. I think that helps. Everybody’s friendly, kind and welcoming. I feel comfortable with their care. And everybody knows my name.”

Clinical trials available for cancer patients

As a leader in clinical research, HonorHealth’s program gives you access to clinical trials from phase I to phase IV, with a special focus on early drug development. A trial is an option at any stage of your cancer journey.

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