Darlene Joyce Vaughan, 61, one of the “miracle patients” whose clinical trial experience helped speed government approval of Gleevec, died April 25 in Mesa, Ariz. Vaughan was one of the handful of clinical trial patients profiled in the book, “Magic Cancer Bullet,” written by Dr. Daniel Vasella, chairman and chief executive officer of the pharmaceutical company Novartis. She had been given just days to live when a single 100 mg. capsule of an experimental drug called STI571, now Gleevec, pulled her back from the brink and started her on the road to remission. Vaughan was born Oct. 3, 1942, in Pasadena, Calif. She studied at California State University in Long Beach before starting her career in business and project management in the aerospace industry. Married briefly in her 30s, she traded the big city and the corporate world for Pueblo, Colo., where in 1994 she opened a coffee house and café in a historic building that had once housed a brothel. She was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in 1998 and underwent surgery, then radiation treatment and another surgery. She also put herself on an intensive regimen of vitamins, supplements, exercise and meditation, and sold her business and the building. In 2000, she tried an experimental antiangiogenesis, SU-6668, then a traditional chemotherapy, Dacarbazine (DTIC). That October, her friend Anne Murphy showed her an e-mail from Norman Scherzer, a member of the ACOR listserv for leiomyosarcoma. Anne had joined the list on Darlene’s behalf. Norman was urging people to check their pathology since their leiomyosarcoma might actually be GIST – and an experimental drug was proving amazingly effective against GIST. By the time Darlene took her first capsule of STI571, she was near death. In the UCLA Medical Center for days, she no longer qualified for the trial but was given Gleevec on a compassionate use basis. The afternoon of March 5, 2001, semiconscious, she took her first dose of STI571 — one 100 mg. capsule. Her weakened body couldn’t tolerate anything more. The next morning, she was able to converse with friends. Within 24 hours, she had regained her faculties and the doctor told her she looked “fantastic.” Darlene was soon released from the hospital. Within two months after starting the drug, her tumors had shrunk 47 percent. She had become a poster child for the drug that would be called Gleevec, and give her three more years of life.

LRG Team
Author: LRG Team