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Woman Receiving Experimental Treatments For Pancreatic Cancer At UPMC

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Darlene Bossola was stunned when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.

The mother of three, who's married to her high school sweetheart, made a decision early on to fight her diagnosis. She enrolled in a clinical trial underway at UPMC, without any hesitation.

"When you're diagnosed with stage 3 (pancreatic cancer), you want something to happen, for the better," Bossola said.

Before the trial began, she received the standard treatment of chemotherapy and radiation.

In February, she began the first of eight experimental treatments where doctors use a special catheter, allowing them to send chemotherapy directly to the tumor.

"Using X-rays, bring that catheter up into the pancreas, and once we're in the pancreas, identifying the blood vessels that supply the tumor. We were able to bathe the tumor with chemotherapy, without having to go through the bloodstream," said Dr. Paula Novelli, the interventional radiologist at UPMC who administered the chemotherapy to Bossola.

Of the 30 hospital groups participating in the trial, UPMC is already treating patients with this catheter.

"I've been treating cancer in the liver and pancreas my whole professional career, but this innovate procedure is making a major impact, a clinical impact, that I've not been able to offer previously, Dr. Novelli, told KDKA's Lisa Washington.

Dr. Novelli says the results from this trial are promising, especially since pancreatic cancer usually isn't diagnosed until it's already advanced.

"This is a poor prognosis with a survival of general 6-11 months using standard systemic chemotherapy," Dr. Novelli said.

"We're able to deliver in this trial, chemotherapy directly to the tumor in addition to some standard chemotherapy and we're seeing survival from 16-23 months and counting," the doctor added.

Dr. Novelli describes Bossola's progress as remarkable.

"Her tumor is moving away from the blood vessels and vital structures," Dr. Novelli said. "We're absolutely not only pleased but amazed with her results at this point."

Bossola added, "I have been feeling good my entire process. I've not had any ill effects like nausea, the only affect I've had is fatigue."

Doctors will continue to monitor Darlene's progress.

Meanwhile, they hope more patients will consider participating in the trial.

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