New tool pairs women with breast cancer trials

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- A diagnosis of breast cancer can be a terrifying experience. And sometimes access to the latest treatments is only available through clinical trials. Now there's a powerful new tool to help women find those trials.

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As a young mother, Lori Wallace-Pushinaitis has been in the fight of her life, facing a diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer.

"So I'm two years into my two to three year life expectancy with a 9-year-old at home," says Lori.

She's fighting back with an experimental chemotherapy treatment under a clinical trial at the Stanford Cancer Center. The specialized drug is targeted to specific genetic causes of her cancer.

"It has a DNA blocker in it that seeks out my damaged genes" Lori explains.

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And in fact many of the newest emerging therapies are focused on the patient's own physiology, or the genetic makeup of the cancer itself. And finding the right clinical trial can be critical.

"Breast cancer is not breast cancer is not breast cancer, there are many subtypes of breast cancer," says Elly Cohen, Ph.D., a professor of surgery at UCSF.

Cohen leads a program designed to help women quickly find the breast cancer trial that's best fit for them through a website called It includes a powerful app designed to sift through tiers of information.

"Because clinical trials are looking at very specific therapies for very specific patient types," says Cohen.

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Women are asked to fill out a specialized form. It includes specific information, like the subtype of their cancer and whether it's spread to other areas in their body. That's coupled with personal data like family history, and where they live.

Cohen and her team are now partnering to place the trial-finder app on other popular cancer information websites as well. If patients choose to register, they can receive updates on trials that fit their specific situation as they begin recruiting.

While the purpose is to advance research, Lori believes access to the latest targeted therapies can also give new hope, even in difficult cases like hers.

"It seems to be working. It's been slow and steady. My story that I'm sticking to is slow and steady wins the race.

Click here to learn more about the tool.

And click here for more stories and videos about breast cancer.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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