Header Images

ITOR Patient Stories

Sandra Fehrman, a two-time cancer patient, saw her diagnosis improve with help from the ITOR Clinical Research Unit (CRU) Target Now program.

Living with cancer can be like riding a roller coaster. Just ask Sandra Fehrman, a Simpsonville woman diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.

After an 11-year remission, she learned in 2003 that the cancer had metastasized to her lungs, liver and bones, and that it was incurable. But using an innovative new program called Target Now®, Fehrman's doctor, Larry Gluck, M.D., prescribed a plan that combined a drug designed to treat breast cancer with another drug usually used to treat renal cell cancer. The combination worked for Fehrman, taking her cancer from "incurable" to "manageable," and she credits Target Now and her physicians for the fact that she's alive today.

After her positive experience with the Target Now program, Fehrman wants to help get the word out about ITOR CRU and its innovative approach to cancer care, and the doctors who are leading the charge. She's giving back in many ways, happy to serve as an ambassador for ITOR Clinical Research Unit by telling her amazing story.

Target Now is just one program that makes ITOR CRU's approach to cancer unique. In Target Now, tissue is collected from the patient during the initial surgery to remove cancer cells. That tissue and the patient's DNA are carefully analyzed by scientists in the CRU, collaboration between Greenville Health System (GHS) and Cancer Centers of the Carolinas.

Target Now identifies specific genetic sequences in the tumor and provides information on drugs that may be appropriate for treatment. With this approach, oncologists recommend cancer treatments based on a tumor's molecular structure, rather than the traditional method of choosing drugs based on the cancer's site of origin (e.g., breast, lung, etc.). ITOR CRU was one of four original sites selected to use the Target Now approach and has been instrumental in making this program available everywhere.

A similar program, Total Cancer Care (TCC), involves the same molecular analysis of a patient's cancer cells but also involves entering the information gleaned from that analysis into a nationwide database. As the database grows, more knowledge is available to assist oncologists with patients - present and future.

Both programs mark a turning point in the approach to cancer treatment, as doctors move the focus from the part of the body affected to the makeup of the tumor itself. Jeffery Edenfield, M.D., principal investigator for TCC, explains:

"A patient might have breast cancer, but her DNA and tumor makeup might not be like other patients with breast cancer. Instead, her tumor might be similar to those we've seen in kidney patients. So why not treat her cancer with what we've seen works with kidney tumors?"

As ITOR CRU strives to achieve its goals, it is the personal advocacy of ambassadors such as Sandra Fehrman and the financial support of the community that will raise awareness of the care available at GHS and the ongoing need for financial support to reach even higher levels of patient care.

To learn more about philanthropic opportunities to support the GHS Cancer Center, contact Jim Kaltenbach at (864) 797-7734 or jkaltenbach@ghs.org.