Phoenix resident Dick O'Neall received a diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer shortly after telling his doctor that he was experiencing a slight discomfort in his ribcage in April 2011. He was given approximately 6 months to live.
His son, who works as an information support specialist at Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, arranged for him to get a second opinion there. O'Neall was accepted into a clinical trial, which used the chemotherapy regimen being studied for pancreatic cancer, Gemcitabine and Abraxane, in combination with a Hedgehog pathway inhibitor. This targeted therapy breaks down the outer covering of the cancer cell to increase the therapeutic effect of the chemotherapy. On June 1, 2011, he began the trial using this drug combination.
"It was the first time I had heard anybody talk about anything hopeful in regard to my future," O'Neall said. The chemo was hard on his body, but it proved worthwhile. "They were testing me all the time; and almost immediately, my tumors began to shrink."
Today, 16 months after his diagnosis, O'Neall says he feels great and is continuing treatment with the Abraxane/Gemcitabine regimen. O'Neall, who with his wife, Karen, runs a mentoring program for youth at Calvary Community Church in Phoenix, recognizes that there is no cure for the disease yet and that the cancer can return.
"When I look back now, and I can't emphasize enough the compassionate care I received," he said. "They gave me hope to know that there was something that could be done for me, and that I didn't inevitably have to surrender to this terrible disease."
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