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Soon-to-be law could improve access to cancer clinical trials

SOUTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP, FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. - Governor Tom Wolf is expected to sign a bill into law that would reimburse patients for out of pocket expenses during cancer clinical trials. Right now the cost associated with clinical trials keep many people from participating.

Ashley Kulp was pregnant with her now 4-year-old son Kayden when she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix. Her only option was to deliver Kayden early and have a hysterectomy and then start chemotherapy and radiation. After a year of treatment Kulp was cancer free, but it wasn't long until the cancer returned. This time around she did not want to try chemotherapy and radiation again.

"I did a lot of genetic testing on my tumor and I did hours of research," said Kulp. "And I found a trial at Massachusetts General Hospital that was more so geared to my genetic mutation but it wasn't for my type of cancer."

A clinical trial is a new treatment that has yet to be approved by the FDA. During this clinical trial, Kulp was given a very low chance of success, 10 percent it would work, 90 percent chance it would do nothing at all. Having gone through chemo and radiation in the past, Ashley felt it was the right treatment to try. Although she would have to travel from Franklin County to Boston once a month and stay a few days, which would average about $1,000 a trip.

"I knew that burden would be very hard for me," said Kulp. "Because I have a child, I'm raising a [then] 2-year-old, I have a family, it's going to be very expensive."

Kulp's doctor pointed her in the direction of the Lazarus Foundation which helps reduce the cost burden of patients in cancer clinical trials. Without them, Kulp would likely not have been able to participate in the trial and be in remission as she is today. She's hoping with Governor Wolf's signature on HB126, not only will this help all cancer patients access funding for clinical trials, but it will bring more awareness.

"I feel like in general this bill is going to do great for any kind of science," said Kulp. "They're going to have more people on trials and more people are going to be studied and more discoveries can be made in science. So I feel like it's going to be a whole streamline effect of good things."

Currently on three to six percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials which delays research progress.

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