Clinical research as a care option comes to Pinehurst Medical Clinic in central North Carolina. Terri Cook, a substitute teacher and grandmother living in North Carolina, had her upper right lobe removed after a lung cancer surgery in 2015. Cook was a non-smoker. Thereafter she received frequent scans and in November, 2017 she was diagnosed with a concerning lesion—which turned out to be more cancer. Because she already received a lobectomy a second surgery wasn’t advised. The physician suggested microwave ablation available in a clinical trial—the study was being conducted by Michael Pritchett, a pulmonary specialist at Pinehurst Medical Clinic and director of the Chest Center of the Carolinas which is part of First Health Carolinas.
Fear of being ‘Guinea Pig’
For Terri Cook having the cancer come back was frightening enough but to consider a clinical trial she “immediately thought ‘guinea pig.’” She shared that her physician had commented that if it was his wife he would recommend the same course of action—the clinical trial.
Participating in the UK-based Study
As it turns out, pulmonary specialist Michael Pritchett assisted with a clinical trial involving a bronchoscopy with microwave ablation in the United Kingdom (UK). In this procedure, the investigator inserts a flexible probe through the mouth and routs it directly to the problematic lesion where it is “zapped with microwave energy,” reports The Pilot. Apparently, Pritchett was asked to conduct a similar clinical trial in America making him one of the few principal investigators here.
Ms. Cook participated in the study and on June 28, 2018, she was the first patient to have this microwave ablation procedure done in the United States. It was a big deal. There were many people watching the procedure, reported Terri in The Pilot. With minimal discomfort, she went through the procedure and after an overnight stay at the hospital quickly recovered at home.
It was a wise move to join the study as the second of the lesions was in fact cancerous and it turned out having the procedure a second time made sense. The clinical trial protocol called for 20 patient slots in America and Terri ended up taking number one and number nine. This second procedure was completed on March 15, 2019.
A Wise Move
Terri feels a lot better now. The 64-year old grandmother of two reported “I feel wonderful now!” With a third grandchild on the way she wants to be present to enjoy family for as long as possible. And based on the sponsored content in The Pilot, there appears to be hope as Terri emphatically declared, “I can breathe!”
With only two research sites in America—the one Terri Cook participated in and the Mayo Clinic. The study was through First Health Carolinas and was titled “A Multicenter Study of the NEUWAVE Fex Microwave Ablation System in the Ablation of Medically Inoperable Primary Soft Tissue Lesions of the Lung: An Initial Experience. The maker of the NEUWAVE microwave ablation system is Ethicon (medical technology affiliate of Johnson & Johnson).
The Clinical Research as a Care Option Movement Gains Momentum
Terri reports that nearly a year and half later from the first ablation that she is feeling normal and back at work as a substitute teacher. Thankfully the latest scans reveal no evidence of cancerous lesions. Terry commented on the power of clinical research as a care option—bringing advanced investigational treatments to local communities: “I think it is amazing what can be done now—and right in Pinehurst!” She continued, “Every time I teach in Pittsboro, my colleagues assume my medical care was at Chapel Hill. When I told them Pinehurst, they said, ‘Really?’ and I replied, ‘Yes, really!’”