In the spring of 2018, Sheila Roush’s dermatologist found a suspicious mole on her back.
Sheila had been getting annual skin checkups ever since her sister passed away from melanoma nearly 25 years prior. And it’s a good thing she was so vigilant. A biopsy confirmed that Sheila’s mole was malignant melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer that sometimes spreads to other parts of the body.
“After all these years, I never expected that,” Sheila says. “Mine was classified as an aggressive form of cancer.”
First, she had surgery to remove the skin tissue surrounding her malignant melanoma. Six months later, a follow-up CT scan revealed a suspicious area on her lungs.
“They did a PET scan and scoped my lungs to take a biopsy, and that confirmed a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer,” Sheila says.
She was stunned, but she fought back with six months of chemotherapy—plus long-term immunotherapy designed to boost her body’s natural defenses. Still, Sheila’s cancer continued to grow.
Searching for hope and more time with her family, Sheila made an appointment at The Christ Hospital to learn about clinical trials and non-traditional approaches to fight cancer. She spoke with Alexander Starodub, MD, PhD
, the medical director of Oncology Clinical Trials, and his team. And she brought her husband and daughter to discuss details.
“I had no other options. And I still have things I want to do with my life. So, I listened to everything they said,” remembers Sheila. “And then I told them, let’s do this.”
In June 2021, Sheila enrolled in a clinical trial. Within a few months, her cancer was stable.
“Sheila is a good example of how things can turn around for a patient who has no other remaining choices due to cancer type or individual circumstances,” explains Dr. Starodub.
How clinical trials offer new hope for Sheila and others fighting cancer
Sheila’s clinical trial is available through a partnership between The Christ Hospital and Worldwide Clinical Trials, which provides people with access to advanced medical research and revolutionary treatments. Participants have aggressive cancer, and they’ve exhausted all other treatments.
Through clinical trials, researchers hope to discover a medical breakthrough and pinpoint new types of immunotherapy that will stop the progression of cancer.
“Immunotherapy has been in place for several years, but we are looking to establish a second-generation of medications that empower the immune system to attack the cancer,” explains Dr. Starodub.
For her treatment, Sheila takes immunotherapy injections for five consecutive days and then takes a week off. Sheila lives in Adams County, and she’s thrilled she doesn’t need to travel outside the state to access this new treatment.
“Learning the clinical trials are available locally at The Christ Hospital made all the difference in the world,” she says. “A huge blessing.”
On the first day of each treatment cycle, Sheila feels tired, so she tries to go to bed early. By the next day, she feels well enough to do a little housework.
Sheila is thankful for the excellent care.
“Dr. Starodub and his clinical staff are so concerned about their patients’ health and well-being,” Sheila says. “They’re kind and compassionate, and that makes me feel secure.”
She tries to stay active and considers each day a blessing.
“This trial has given me more time with my family and friends. It’s saving my life right now,” says Sheila. “The Lord has been with me every step of my journey and led me to these wonderful doctors and nurses. I’m so grateful for all my blessings.” Learn more about clinical trials available through The Christ Hospital.