Rubin, before joining Merck, oversaw
clinical trials at the Institute. Cynthia
Wojtaszek, director of U. S. regulatory
strategy for oncology at Bristol-Myers
Squibb, also hails from the Institute.
Mary Todd, now global medical a;airs
leader for prostate cancer for Johnson
& Johnson, was deputy director at the
Institute in the ;;;;s.
Further, New Jerseyans have a
distinct advantage in getting access to
new treatments because of a pioneering agreement Todd forged with health
insurers in the mid-;;;;s, when she
was at the Institute. With the help of
some powerful friends in Trenton, she
convinced insurers to voluntarily cover
standard of care for all patients undergoing clinical trials in New Jersey. This
includes all tests, scans and exams a
patient would have even if they weren’t
in an experimental protocol.
Fouad Namouni, development head for
Debbie Galant is a Glen Ridge-based free-
oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, says
there is indeed an advantage to locating
clinical trials in the Garden State. “It’s
just easier to drive down to a site in New
Jersey than having a meeting in San
Francisco and flying six hours,” he says.
“We’re going to have faster discussions
and hopefully productive discussions.”
For D’Agostino, doggedness, connect-
edness, luck and perhaps geography—
along with our nation’s medical safety
net—conspired to get her into a clinical
trial. And although it surely didn’t feel
that way to her, it happened—in medical-
bureaucracy terms—at breakneck speed.
But the real story of D’Agostino’s cancer
is being written at a cellular level. It’s
happening at the checkpoint between her
cancer cells and her T-cells—the white
blood cells that are key to the body’s im-
mune response. In December, blood tests
showed a significant decline in tumor
markers and a scan indicated that all the
nodules in Chiara’s lungs had disap-
peared. Although some new nodules had
shown up on her lumbar spine, doctors
were optimistic that the Keytruda was
working. Only time will tell.
lance writer. She finished chemotherapy
in January 2016 and is cancer-free until
proven otherwise. With her son Noah, she
chronicled her experience in The Chemo
Files, an award-winning podcast.
FEBRUARY 2017 NEW JERSE Y MON THLY 87
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