Battle Against Cancer Being Fought in Topeka

The future of cancer treatment could lie among rows of files tucked in a room labelled "Research" at the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center.

Nurse Anita Leonard, RN, remembers a time when the promise they held didn't seem so real. She says when she started in oncology some 30 years ago, "it was not a pleasant time for cancer patients."

Leonard says, back then, there weren't many options for treating cancers - sometimes no options if the form was rare. Plus, there were few to no medications to lessen the nausea and other side effects of treatments.

Today, she's seeing the fruits of early efforts in research and clinical trials, and she's on the frontlines of creating more breakthroughs. She facilitates the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center's participation in research trials through the Southwest Oncology Group. The facility has 74 open right now. Leonard says some of them are trying new medications, others are using new medications in combination with standard treatments and others are using standard treatments in new ways. Some even study ways to prevent cancer.

The dedication is going further. In January, Cotton-O'Neil joined the Midwest Cancer Alliance, giving patients access to some 150 more trials through the University of Kansas.

The trials have led to new medications, giving patients several options, and in some cases, curing them.

Still, work remains. Leonard says if it can't be entirely prevented or cured, the dream is to at least control it. She says a pill that would stop tumor growth and make cancer a chronic condition instead of a fatal disease would be a great place to be.

Stand Up 2 Cancer
You're invited to "Stand Up 2 Cancer" Friday night. The three major television networks are airing a star-studded fundraising effort for cancer research. It will be seen from 7 to 8 pm on WIBW-TV.