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New Hope To Beat Cancer

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aurora St. Luke’s is one of a few institutions in the world to offer skin cancer clinical trial.

Milwaukee, Wis.-- Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center is one of the first institutions in the world to offer a new skin cancer research study that trains the patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

The Young Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocyte (Y-TIL) trial is a phase 2 clinical trial being offered with technical support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md. Milwaukee native, Jeff Capstran participated in an earlier stage of this trial at NCI. Capstran had stage-four metastatic melanoma, a diagnosis that few survive, but with small kids at home he was determined to find treatment options.

“I knew that my illness was very serious, but there had to be new opportunities to fight back,” Capstran says. “When I found out about the study at NCI, I knew I had to jump at the chance. Today, I am cancer free.”

The early results from a similar trial at the NCI are exciting for patients with stage-four metastatic melanoma. Published reports for the trial show a 51 percent response rate.

To qualify, all patients must be diagnosed with stage-four metastatic melanoma. During the trial blood is drawn from the patient, along with a sample of the tumor. The T cells, which are the immune system’s killer cells, are extracted from the tumor and re-educated to attack the cancer cells. The patient’s normal immune system is then temporarily suppressed using chemotherapy, and the newly trained T cells are returned to the patient. The T cells are expected to survive, replicate and kill the cancer.

The trial has a capacity for 75 patients over a three-year period. Of those 41 are expected to qualify for the entire process. With the success of this program, the next step is a phase 3 trial where hundreds of patients would be enrolled and treated.

Due to the experimental features of this clinical trial, some portions of the study may not be covered by health insurance. As a not-for-profit, Aurora Health Care’s philanthropy program has secured more than $2 million in support from outside donors, including $50,000 from Anne’s Hope Foundation.

Milwaukee’s own Northwestern Mutual Foundation has made it’s largest health care donation of $750,000 to Aurora’s immunotherapy program, which has oversight of the Y-TIL Trial. Other contributors include A. Elser, Jr., William Schuett, Sr., Stella Jones and Sherwood and Libby Temkin.

To keep the trial affordable for all who participate, an additional $700,000 in donations is being sought for each year of the program, a total of over $2,000,000.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of care. Aurora provides care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin and Illinois.

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Contacts:
Adam V. Beeson, 414-649-3915
Myrle Croasdale, 414-649-3917

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