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Cancer Patients Find Hope At Sarah Cannon Research Institute

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– Cancer patients, who have exhausted standard treatments, have found promising new therapies in Colorado. In 18 months, the Sarah Cannon Research Institute at Health One has run 32 clinical trials.

The institute is relatively new to the state, but it comes with more than 20 years of experience with community-based clinical trials. In Denver, it is reporting great success with sometimes “first in human” treatments.

Erma Steck at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (credit: CBS)

Erma Steck at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (credit: CBS)

Erma Steck of Broomfield has been a patient for more than a year. In July of 2015, Steck showed up at Sarah Cannon– scared.

“Oh yeah, that’s not a word you want to hear,” Steck told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

The word was cancer. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, what started as uterine cancer was back and had spread.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“Went to the hip, went to the lungs, went to the stomach,” said Steck.

Dr. Gerald Falchook, Oncologist and Director of the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Denver, enrolled the 67-year-old in a clinical trial of an experimental immunotherapy drug.

“The underlying idea with immunotherapy is to find some way to stimulate our own immune system to fight the cancer,” said Falchook.

“I’m just the lab rat,” said Steck.

CBS4's Kathy Walsh interviews Dr. Gerald Falchook (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviews Dr. Gerald Falchook (credit: CBS)

Steck got the experimental drug through an IV drip, once every two weeks for 48 weeks. She said her only side effect was fatigue.

“Within the first eight weeks, her tumors were getting smaller, ” said Falchook.

At a year, he said, Steck’s tumors were gone.

“You know I’m going to cry… thank you, ” Steck told Falchook.

Erma Steck with Dr. Gerald Falchook at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (credit: CBS)

Erma Steck with Dr. Gerald Falchook at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (credit: CBS)

In 18 months, Falchook has enrolled more than 180 patients in clinical trials. The trails offer hope for many people. Steck believes her trial turned out to be a miracle.

The institute has treated patients from all over the Rocky Mountain region and from as far away as Florida. It was named for Sarah Cannon, also known as Nashville’s Minnie Pearl, who battled breast cancer.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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