Your Health: At-home chemo issues

A new study from Duke University shows home treatment doesn’t always go as prescribed.
A new study from Duke University shows home treatment doesn’t always go as prescribed.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 12:36 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Chemotherapy is a lifesaving treatment for many cancer patients. It’s given intravenously over a period of hours, but what you might not know is that some cancers can be treated with oral chemotherapy – pills a patient takes at home.

A new study from Duke University shows home treatment doesn’t always go as prescribed.

Deborah Tippett is a retired professor, world traveler, and ballroom dancer. And for the second time in 13 years, she’s battling cancer.

“Doctors found in a routine exam,” said Tippett. “A little abnormality, which they decided to test.”

When Tippett had lymphoma years ago, treatment meant trips to a clinic and chemo through an IV.

“Sometimes, it would be 10 hours by the time I met with the doctor, had my blood work, had the treatment,” said Tippett.

This time, her doctor had a lab test her tumor for genetic mutations and found an oral anti-cancer treatment that could work for her ovarian cancer. Duke gynecologic oncologist Brittany Davidson studies cancer patients and how they fare with this treatment at home.

“Several of my partners said, ‘well, it’s not going to be a problem,’” Davidson said. “These patients have cancer. So, of course, they’re going to take their treatment.’”

But in a survey of 100 cancer patients taking oral anti-cancer treatment, Dr. Davidson found 50% of patients took their medication exactly as prescribed - the right amount, at the exact time, under the correct conditions.

However, 25% missed at least one dose in a week, and another 25% missed more than one dose.

“This tells us that adherence is still a problem,” Dr. Davidson said.

Earlier research suggested that side effects, patient support at home, and finances can all impact home treatment. Tippett and Dr. Davidson worked with the pharmaceutical company so she could afford her drug, Mekinist and Tippett builds her day around medication time, so that she never misses a dose.

“I know that that’s the first thing I do when I get out of bed,” Tippett said. Now, she is back on her toes these days, feeling more like herself again.

“I’m just grateful to be living in a time where I could have all these options.”

Dr. Davidson says there’s no research that shows what happens when patients are occasionally late or miss an oral dose.

If patients miss many doses, the treatment might not work as effectively. If doses are too close together, the side effects might be more severe.

Subscribe to our News 10 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning.