LSU Health New Orleans is searching for patients to participate in a clinical trial for a new treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer.
Director of LSU Health New Orleans Cancer Center Dr. Augusto Ochoa says for the first time in Louisiana, people suffering from this cancer will be treated with an immunotherapy drug.
“It stimulates the patient’s own immune system to kill the tumor cells and the trial has been initiated in 11 sites in the United States, and we’re one of those sites.”
Immunotherapy is also used to treat melanoma and some lung cancers. Ochoa says with this treatment the initial tests found over 2/3 of patients showed a dramatic reduction in the tumor as a result of the immunotherapy. He says other forms of treatment were very unsuccessful.
“The patients had an average lifespan of between 6 and 9 months after they had been diagnosed. In this case we have now patients that have several years of survival after they got treated.”
The founder of Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits, Al Copeland Sr., passed away in 2008 of Merkal Cell Carcinoma. His son, Al Copeland Jr, says the Al Copeland Foundation donated $100,000 to support this clinical trial.
“We do annual golf tournaments, we have a Copeland’s Chicken Jam, we put on our Krewe du Cure event, accept money from donors and we donate 100% of those proceeds over to the LSU Health Science Research Center.”