A Search for Hope and Answers
May 12, 2018 Cedars-Sinai Staff
In early 2012, Oraleen Johnson's ovarian cancer returned again.
"You know the expression a cat has 9 lives?" says Oraleen. "After my 9th recurrence of ovarian cancer, I stopped counting."
But this diagnosis was different. Oraleen, who was 70 at the time, was told by her oncologist in Las Vegas that after 22 years of treatment for ovarian cancer, there were no more therapies left to try.
"After my 9th recurrence of ovarian cancer, I stopped counting."
The news was shocking, but Oraleen's husband, Kent Johnson, wasn't ready to give up hope or say goodbye to his wife of 50 years. Neither were the couple's 3 children and 13 grandchildren.
"We had everything to win and nothing to lose, so we began a search for hope and answers," says Kent.
That search took them from state to state, where they visited one nationally acclaimed cancer center after another. Everywhere they went, they got the same answer: There were no treatment options left to try.
Finally, in late 2012, they were referred to the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.
The couple met with husband-and-wife team Dr. Alain Mita and Dr. Monica Mita, co-directors of the Experimental Therapeutics program. The program offers research options to cancer patients when standard care options aren't available to the patient. Most of their studies are phase I clinical trials, screening potential drug treatments for safety and dosage levels.
In fact, all of the clinical trials Oraleen participated in have been targeted therapies, personalized to her genetic makeup and disease characteristics.
"Oraleen came to us because she was told she had no other options," Dr. Alain Mita says. "We were able to offer multiple treatments and new hope to her and her family."
And she's not alone. Patients around the world benefit from new treatments—thanks in large part to people who participate in clinical trials.
"We had everything to win and nothing to lose, so we began a search for hope and answers."
"Oraleen came to us because she was told she had no other options," Dr. Alain Mita says. "We were able to offer multiple
"Every therapy we have today to treat cancer was once part of a clinical trial," says Dr. Monica Mita. "Since Oraleen first came to Cedars-Sinai, a new drug has been approved for ovarian cancer, which may offer her and thousands of other patients another promising treatment option."
Now 6 years after first coming to Cedars-Sinai, Oraleen is participating in her 5th phase I clinical trial.
"There's no one like the Mitas; I immediately felt hopeful and joyful when I met them," says Oraleen. "Everyone else had turned me away, but they embraced me, encouraged me, and told me I had options. "
"There is no doubt in my mind that clinical trials have helped keep Oraleen alive," says Kent.