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May 19, 2017 07:37 PM

Medical Study Helps Brookings Man Beat Cancer

When it comes to cancer, no two patients are the same — especially when it comes to treatments. Brian Darnall was losing his fight with cancer, until a study called TAPUR helped him get the treatment he needed.

He has run his own successful business in Brookings since 1972. 

Darnall, his wife Lynn and one of his daughters, all work at Medary Acres growing and selling anything from flowers to vegetables. Darnell says he stays busy year round, especially after a cancer diagnosis two years ago.

"Whack a mole. That kid game where that mole keeps popping up and you are whacking it with a hammer. That's kind of what they were doing with my cancer," Darnall said

Darnall had been diagnosed with a rare skin cancer that started out as a lump on the side of his face. He had surgery that removed lymph nodes and then endured radiation treatments.

"When I went back for another pet scan then it had moved into my chest and my lungs and they radiated that. It moved into the lymph noded in between my lungs, they radiated that," Darnall said

Yet again the cancer returned again. This time in his clavicle.

"It felt like I was on the end of life journey," Darnall said

Sanford Oncologist Dr. Steve Powell says the hardest part of his job is when there seems to be no answers for a patient,

"We have a lot of good treatment options for some cancers and for some rare cancers we don't have good treatment options. It's really hard to look somebody in the face and say I don't have a treatment option for you and this trial changes that," Powell said

Luckily, help arrived in the form of an FDA-approved national clinical trial at Sanford. The idea behind the study is to provide access to drugs, finding the correct treatment for patients and sending the drugs right to them. Otherwise drugs might be impossible to find or patients would be forced to travel far distances for treatment. 

"We were able to, by testing genetics on his tumor, identify a mutation that would tell us to use immunotherapy and it's a very unique change and the only way you can get access to it right now through rare cancers is through this clinical trial," Powell said

After four treatments, Darnell has had no side effects and is improving. Sanford is one of about 20 hospitals taking part in the study.

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