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Participating in Research Trials: ‘I wanted to live’


April 12, 2022 Posted in: Cancer Care  2 minute read time

Samuel Riley of Winchester didn’t hesitate when offered the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial through CHI Saint Joseph Health. 

“I wanted to live,” Riley said. “What I was doing at the time wasn’t working, so you take a chance. The chance has worked out pretty good for me.”

Riley was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in March 2020. CT scans found the cancer had metastasized - doctors found 11 tumors in his brain, four in his abdomen and two in lymph nodes associated with his lung cancer. He was getting treatment elsewhere, but that wasn’t working. He told his wife, “I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m not living.”

His wife, Melanie, had a friend seeking treatment through CHI Saint Joseph Health’s affiliation with Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center and made an appointment to move his care to the CHI Saint Joseph Health - Cancer Care Center at Saint Joseph East. The treatment, like before, worked for a while.

“I had a tumor come back into my brain,” Riley said.

Samuel Riley

So the research team started looking for trials that might work for him. “Usually, people do treatment trials hoping there would be a better outcome with it than the current treatments on the market,” said Natalie Jo Hawes, CRN, BSN, research coordinator.  “With Samuel, he has a type of cancer that has a genetic marker that has been shown to have benefits with the type of treatment he is receiving.”

Riley started the chemotherapy treatment in November 2020 and has seen positive results. He takes a pill daily, at home, and as part of the trial, he gets a scan of his brain and abdomen every two months, and visits with Jessica Croley, MD, medical director for CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Centers in Lexington, once a month.

“This medication has treated his cancer very well,” said Hawes. “He’s having very few side effects from the medication and, so far, he’s having a pretty good quality of life.”

CHI Saint Joseph Health participates in a number of clinical trials that could offer alternatives to standard treatments and more choices for care, while advancing future medical research. Hawes said the team searches for clinical trials for which patients may qualify. CHI Saint Joseph Health has a multitude of studies for many types and stages of cancer. Most trials are treatment focused; however, there are a few trials that aim to improve quality of life for cancer patients. . 

If a trial isn’t offered at Saint Joseph in Lexington, the research team checks at other locations for which a trial is available. The same is true at other locations. Hawes said a patient traveled from Ohio - a two-hour drive one way - to participate in a trial at Saint Joseph. The length of trials can vary. For instance, Hawes said Saint Joseph currently has one that lasts eight weeks, while others may last for 10 years. “It really depends on the trial and the patient’s response,” she said.

As for Riley, he’s glad he made the decision to take part in the trial for which he has been a part for more than a year.

“Your philosophy changes a little bit if you’re diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer,” Riley said.

Samuel Riley

 “The first thing I thought was, '’I'm done; this is it.’ Then you start preparing to die. Then you start thinking about it. I’m going to do whatever I can do to live.”

He offers this advice to others facing similar situations.

“If your doctor says you qualify for it, I would by all means recommend it,” Riley said. I’ve gone through two - one didn’t work out well for me. One has kept me alive for two years now. What other options do you have? Just suffer?”

To learn more about clinical trials and research at CHI Saint Joseph Health, visit our website.


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