Dawn Schaffer

Ovarian Trial Gives New Hope

Loving wife, mother and grandmother, Dawn Schaffer was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Since then Dawn has been in and out of treatment and was told there may be no other options available, but now a world-first clinical trial has given her new hope.

After months of feeling uneasy about her health and having undergone numerous screenings and tests that showed no signs or symptoms she had any major health issues, in February 2012, a CT scan picked up Dawn’s cancer. Since having surgery to remove the tumour Dawn’s cancer has continued to return and she has been no stranger to the inside of oncology hospitals for the past five years. “I think I have had every drug available for ovarian cancer and haven’t gone more than six months without chemotherapy,” Dawn said.

After years of different drugs, regimes and tests Dawn took the lead and began contacting scientists and researchers to see if anything else was out there, and that’s when she found herself at Icon Cancer Care. Dawn began a new chemotherapy regime at Icon Cancer Care South Brisbane with her new medical oncologist Dr Jim Coward. After seeing little result in her course of treatment Dr Coward saw an opportunity for Dawn to become a research patient on a new ovarian clinical trial. This study is an early phase clinical trial, meaning the trial involves the initial introduction of an experimental drug or therapy currently not in use.

Dr Coward, who is also the trial’s Principal Investigator explained to Dawn that she was an eligible patient to be part of this trial, with the possibility of a good outcome. The study involves the use of a new chemotherapy drug which targets the entire spectrum of cancer cells. It is Icon Cancer Foundation’s first early phase trial in collaboration with Wesley Medical Research, and Dr Coward says it will help benefit ovarian cancer patients. “This drug is designed to target chemotherapy-resistant tumour-initiating cells that are thought to be responsible for disease recurrence,” he said.

Dawn jumped at the opportunity to be part of this world-first clinical trial. “I feel privileged to be offered this trial. It’s something very special to be involved in. There are so many people who won’t have the opportunity I’ve got. I am one of the fortunate ones,” she said.

She has explored a number of career paths and has worked in healthcare for most of her life, having been a registered nurse for several years, interior designer for aged care communities and is still an active member of the aged care committee in Hervey Bay. In between her treatment and work commitments she spends her spare time helping organise charity events and fundraises for cancer organisations.

“I believe what you give, is what you get back. I want to support people who can make a difference in the future of cancer care. I’m helping the bright young people who might find a cure so others like me can beat this awful disease.”

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