Consumer Watch: More people coming to Oklahoma City for cancer care

More cancer patients coming to Oklahoma City for care.

Clinical trials that could make a meaningful difference in cancer patients lives, are happening now in Oklahoma. The growth in cancer research locally has made the state into a regional hub for care. Clinical trials are often signifying hope for people with a grim prognosis. Fox 25 consumer watch sat down to talk with one man who makes a weekly four-hour drive to the Stephenson Cancer Center, with the hope of staying alive and helping others.

Gail Stover had three months to live. That was over a year ago.

“Once you have had cancer and you talk to other people, it really changes you, you kind of have this obligation to help others,” says Stover.

He was first diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma and started his treatment in Missouri, but it was not working and he was out of options, until he heard the words ‘clinical trial’. That brought him to the Stephenson Cancer Center.

"We are particularly focused on not just taking care of our patients every day, but also moving the field forward, learning how to take care of them better, so that in the future we will have better outcomes than we do at the current time," says Dr. Robert Mannel, Stephenson Cancer Center Director.

The center is meant to be a statewide provider, but it has grown into a regional hub, with patients from surrounding states traveling for help. There are also a large number of clinical Phase I trials. In these trials, medication is being tested out for the first time in people. It doesn't save everyone, but it has helped many people.

“So many patients that I can think of off the top of my head who came to us for Phase I trials who have been on these drugs for one or two or three years with terminal cancers, because they got on the right drug for their mutation at the right time,” says Dr. Dr. Kathleen Moore, Oklahoma TSET Phase I Program Director.

Stover says he started doing better months into the trial.

"I had 100 percent reduction in all tumors, and the blood clots in my lungs were gone, the blood clots in my knee were gone. I got excited then," says Stover.

Drugs still being tested can take 15 years to get FDA approval. That is why so many look for these studies, and Stover says taking the leap is worth it.

“It is not just for me, but it could be my children, my grandchildren, somebody I never met," says Stover.

The cost of these long drives and hotel stays can become overwhelming. Some hotels in Oklahoma do offer discounts to patients traveling for care, and foundations can help cover certain costs. Stover gets some financial assistance from Lazarex Cancer Foundation.

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