KRAS clinical trial gives lung cancer patient more time
Dane Clark is still a lung cancer patient, but it doesn’t interfere with his daily life anymore.
“It’s about as simple as it can be. I take three pills twice a day,” he says. “I’m still on cancer treatment, but it hasn’t changed my activity levels at all.”
For someone whose daily routine include caring for animals and harvesting crops on a 1,000-acre farm, that’s saying a lot. Dane and his wife, Phyllis, raise cattle and sheep, and grow wheat, corn and soybeans on their farm in central Kansas.
Non-smoker surprised with advanced lung cancer diagnosis
When he began coughing up small amounts of blood in February 2018, Dane was concerned enough to go see his doctor, but never expected to end up with a lung cancer diagnosis.
“I’ve done some welding and been exposed to smoke that way, but I’ve never been a cigarette smoker – or any kind of smoker – so it was kind of a shock,” he says. “I didn’t even realize I was sick.”
He was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in April 2018, and referred by his local doctor to MD Anderson. For Dane and Phyllis, the 10- to 11-hour drive from Kansas to Houston was well worth it.
“When we walked into MD Anderson, it was the most people we’d be around until we got home because the closest town only has 80 people,” Dane says. “I really felt like I was seeing some of the best doctors because they were all clearly at the top of their fields.”
Dane’s oncologist Lauren Byers, M.D., coordinated care with his local physician so that he could receive IV chemotherapy with carboplatin and pemetrexed in Kansas, between follow-up visits at MD Anderson. When the chemotherapy stopped working, Byers recommended immunotherapy. But he was only able to complete four rounds of treatment before stopping due to side effects.
“My oxygen levels would drop so low while I was doing chores that I’d get out breath and have to sit down,” Dane recalls. “At one point I started running a fever high enough that I had to go to the emergency room and receive steroids to control it.”
After Dane stopped immunotherapy, his doctors continued to monitor his scans, and the cancer remained stable for several months. Then in September 2020, it began to grow again. That’s when Dane’s care team recommended looking at clinical trial options.
The right clinical trial: a KRAS inhibitor
“Dr. Byers didn’t just put in me a trial; she did some work to find the one that was right for me,” Dane says. “When she told me this clinical trial was the best fit for me, I was happy to try it.”
The clinical trial is led by Marcelo Negrao, M.D., and involves an oral medicine that targets a mutation called KRAS. Biomarker testing from a biopsy revealed that Dane was one of the 25% to 30% of non-small cell lung cancer patients whose cancer is driven by a KRAS mutation.
Researchers had been searching for a treatment to successfully target cancers caused by KRAS mutations for more than 30 years. In May 2021, the first such drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Researchers are still collecting data on adagrasib, the drug being studied in Dane’s clinical trial. So far, his cancer has remained under control for a year, giving Dane more time with his farm and his family.
“Other than being a bit older now, I’m still able to do everything I did before cancer,” Dane says. “I know now that I’m going to be around for a while to see my grandkids get older, and that was the goal I had since I started at MD Anderson.”