From lab to clinic: Cancer survivors, patients benefit at CTRC
Gregory Aune, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric oncologist, is just one of many physician-scientists at the UT Health Science Center who, through cutting-edge research, is paving the way for new treatments for cancer patients and survivors.
Just about a half mile from the university’s main campus is the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) where investigators, like Dr. Aune, conduct their studies. Patients directly benefit from discoveries made here that are translated into tailored treatment and compassionate care.
Martha Arredondo has experienced that care firsthand.
Arredondo’s parents had sheltered her from the worst news on her cancer diagnosis at age 13.
“They all said I would be okay,” Martha said, “so I figured I would be okay.”
But her parents bore the heavy weight of knowledge: Martha had developed a malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumor. It was rare to begin with, and even rarer in young females. They were told that she wouldn’t make it to age 16.
Now 29, Martha has graduated from childhood cancer survivor to adult cancer survivor, and has two children of her own.
During that time she fought the cancer’s return several times – in her stomach, liver and even her brain – with the help of CTRC physicians and staff.
They are her friends. And as a veteran cancer patient, Martha knows how important that is.
“It’s amazing. I have so many friends there. At CTRC when the nurses have a break, they’ll come out of their way to talk to you. They always ask about my kids and my husband.”
“It makes it a lot easier for you to handle whatever it is that you’re going through at that moment. I’ve had so many experiences where it helped a lot.”
Martha protects her own boys from many details of her illness, but they’re acquainted with the CTRC.
“My son calls the nurses ‘the snack doctors.’ They would send snacks for him, so when I would get home he would ask, ‘Did you see the snack doctor?’”
She had a long relationship with her oncologist as well. Kamalesh Sankhala, M.D., saw Martha when he was a fellow helping to establish the sarcoma clinic at the CTRC. When he returned as a board-certified internal medicine specialist she became his patient again.
“He was super nice and professional then, and he hadn’t changed,” she said.
The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit ctrc.net.