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East Tennessee woman cancer-free thanks to clinical trial

Currently, less than 5% of breast cancer patients sign up for clinical trials.

KNOXVILLE — Diane Neely was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in November of 2017. A triple negative diagnosis means the cancer is harder to cure, and more likely to come back. It has a 70% survival rate.

"I knew I had something that you know wasn't normal and wasn't good," said Neely.

After consulting her doctor, Neely decided on a clinical trial with Keytruda, the same drug known to remove former President Jimmy Carter's brain cancer.

“But one of the little nuances in the trial was they wanted you to start the Keytruda drug and radiation at the same time." Neely said.

After a successful surgery, Neely was cancer free. Since November 2017, the cancer has not returned. While Neely's story shows promise, less than 5% of breast cancer patients sign up for clinical trials.

“The way clinical trials are designed these days is not treating the patient like a lab rat," said Dr. Jillian Lloyd with UT Medical Center. “And I don’t see much of a downside in terms of participating in clinical trials, I’m a huge fan of clinical trials and I think that they only stand to benefit the patient and the community.”

Lloyd hopes more people will sign up for clinical trials after hearing stories like Diane's.

She says trials offer tomorrow's treatment today and allow future patients to avoid harsher forms of treatment like mastectomy and chemotherapy.

READ MORE: Breast cancer vaccine that could save generations now in clinical trials at Mayo Clinic

“There’s certainly a lot of promise associated with the clinical trials that are ongoing, but I think it’s a little too soon to think that any one drug would be a cure for all types of breast cancer," said Lloyd.

“I would highly encourage people to seek trials out because they are changing lives," Neely added.

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