Today is National Clinical Trials Day, and UW Health wants to celebrate the researchers, nurses, physicians and experts in the lab who make clinical trials available and impactful for our patients and community. UW Health officials also say virtual consultations have been vital to expanding access to clinical trials for Wisconsin residents, especially during the pandemic.

For example, Rodney Pevytoe, age 64 of Eagle River, Wis., went to an annual checkup four years ago and left with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. He has appendiceal cancer, a rare cancer of the appendix, that had spread to other organs. He had several surgeries, but none were able to completely remove all cancer, so he began chemotherapy in Minocqua, Wis. In April 2020, the pandemic was just beginning and his cancer was no longer responding to chemotherapy, but he discovered a promising clinical trial at University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

This trial aims to stop growth of tumor cells in patients with metastatic cancers that carry a particular mutation. It was only a 1 in 50 chance Rodney’s tumor had that genetic tract mutation, but he beat the odds and was eligible for the trial.

Living in Eagle River, it would’ve been time consuming and stressful for Rodney to travel to Madison for multiple consultations before joining the trial. Thankfully, UW Health began offering virtual consultations for clinical trials to all Wisconsin residents during the pandemic. Now, if a provider or person wants to talk to an expert about finding the right clinical trial, they can contact Cancer Connect (1-800-622-8922) or (clinicaltrials@cancer.wisc.edu) to be connected with a clinical trial nurse navigator. The patient or provider is paired with a nurse navigator who specializes in their disease and the clinical trials that could be right for them. The nurse navigator can review the patient’s medical records and virtually connect them with a physician until they are ready to begin a trial.

Rodney was able to have televisits with Sarah Kotila, clinical trial nurse navigator at UW Carbone, then Dr. Nataliya Uboha, medical oncologist and clinical investigator on the study, to get all his questions answered before he stepped foot in Madison. This enabled him to get to know Uboha without a mask on and feel confident about the trial in the comfort of his own home while the pandemic was accelerating around the world. 

“These clinical trials not only offer more options and hope to our patients, they also pave the way for better treatments in the future,” said Uboha. “I encourage anyone in need of treatment options for things like cancer to search for clinical trials that could be right for them and to talk to their provider about how to join open trials.”

A year into the trial, Rodney says it has been effective for him. He’s been able to spend more time with his grandchild and turns 65 on Monday.

“I’m so glad I was able to join this trial, and it’s been great to be able to stay connected with my care team even when I’m hundreds of miles away,” Rodney said.

Photos of Rodney and video interviews with Sarah Kotila, Dr. Nataliya Uboha and Rodney Pevytoe are available.