Paying It Forward: Meet Laura Holmes Haddad

“I was lucky to have a strong community, and to have lots of personal support so I could really take care of myself. But what about patients who don’t have that extra help?”
— Laura Holmes Haddad

A doctor explained to Laura Holmes Haddad, then a 37-year-old mother of two young children, that the pain and irritation she was experiencing in 2012 was caused by breast-feeding. 

A biopsy told a different tale, though. Laura had an aggressive form of breast cancer, and it had already spread to her lymph nodes and a rib. Even with chemotherapy ordered by her Bay Area physician, the cancer continued to grow. With that, Laura’s traditional options for treatment were exhausted.

Consulting with an expert at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, she learned about a nontraditional option: treatment through a clinical trial. In clinical trials, patients receive new protocols for therapy as part of research studies — protocols that are otherwise unavailable.

That doctor enrolled Laura in such a trial at the only place where one particular medicine was available: City of Hope, a Los Angeles-area comprehensive cancer center. For six months, she made a weekly trek from the Bay Area to Southern California and back to receive the trial chemotherapy treatment. 

And it paid off. The investigational drug shrank Laura’s tumor. Surgery and radiotherapy followed, eliminating the last traces of disease. Changed by what she’d been through, Laura adopted a new role — as an advocate for patients like her.

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