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Local woman is living proof clinical trials keep people alive, more patients needed to participate

June 05, 2019 06:30 PM

Medicine is becoming more patient-centered than ever. That's true for the delivery of healthcare and also research. Patients are contributing to medical advances and clinical trials are keeping people alive. 

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS followed up with a local woman who is committed to helping herself and others.

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Katherine Bensen is back at Mayo Clinic. Bensen is a non-smoker who was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSLC) in 2014. 

RELATED: Targeted therapy means lung cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence

"My job for the last four years has been staying alive and having good health, good quality of life, going to doctor's appointments, doing the research, spreading awareness about lung cancer and just being here for my family," said Bensen.

In 2016, KSTP reported on a unique targeted therapy she received at Mayo Clinic but her cancer kept growing.

"The cancer is really smart," said Bensen. "And so I've exhausted four different targeted-therapy drugs. And the cancer basically figures out that it's getting blocked and then develops another mutation." 

But here's what's great about clinical trials-- each time Bensen tried a therapy and it didn't work, something new popped up that wasn't available before. In April, she started another one.

"We clearly need more people," said Bensen's Mayo Clinic Oncologist, Dr. Julian Molina. "Now we have an abundance of new medications in cancer treatment, and what we are lacking is more patients to participate in clinical trials."

Dr. Molina says clinical trials at Mayo Clinic and other research hospitals are important. 

"The message is [to] consider clinical trials for two reasons," said Molina. "One is because they have a good chance of benefiting you as a patient. Some of these medications are very good and they have a good potential. And number two, you have the chance of helping others."

Bensen is dedicated to the cause. She and her father, former Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan, raise money for research. And she understands cancer impacts the whole family. She's a wife and a mom; she's been honest with her kids and they've learned a lot.

"You can get through anything," said her son, Henry. "You know we have bad days, but I think about her and what she goes through and it really gets me through it, it gets me through anything."

"It's just about breaking it down and taking it day by day I think," said her daughter, Anne. "Don't let the big obstacle facing you get in the way of doing everyday life."

Fast forward a month and there's disappointing news. Bensen has learned the latest therapy isn't working, either. But thanks to research and clinical trials, she's now on another new treatment-- her eighth.

According to Bensen, clinical trials have bought her time and given her hope for a cure.

"If other people had not done these clinical trials I would not be here today," said Bensen. "And Dr. Molina said from day one we are going to treat it like a pair of tires. And when these ones wear out we're going to get another set. I am definitely living proof that research matters and clinical trials matter."

Katherine is beating the odds thanks to clinical trials. According to Mayo Clinic, the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer that has spread (or metastasized) to other areas of the body is 5%. For more, read the Mayo Clinic's Cancer survival rate: What it means for your prognosis. 

Right now, there are 303,093 research studies in all 50 states and in 208 countries and they all need people to participate. How do you find out about clinical trials that might work for you? Your doctor's office will know about them. 

There's also a website you can visit at clinicaltrials.gov. Type in the name of your cancer or illness and it will show you the list of all the clinical trials available. Call the number and ask if you qualify for the clinical trial. Often there is no cost.

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Credits

Kevin Doran

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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