Mark Keaton is leaving his imprint on the fight against breast cancer.
Keaton, an oncologist and clinical researcher with Augusta Oncology Associates, recently finished a clinical study that focuses on fighting breast cancer by preventing cancer cells from repairing themselves.
The study involved researching a potential new class of oncology drugs known as PARP inhibitors that could prevent damaged DNA in cancer cells from becoming repaired, which would help hamper the cells from multiplying.
The drugs target triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to grow and spread more quickly than other breast cancers and occurs more frequently in young black women, according to the American Cancer Society.
"It's a class of drugs that we're pretty excited about for two reasons," said Keaton, a Martinez resident. "One, it seems to have very little side effects, and two, it may significantly improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments in certain groups of patients."
Keaton's team is preparing to study the drug to see if it will aid lung cancer patients as well, he said.
Though the study has concluded, Keaton will follow patients in the study to determine if the treatment is effective.
At the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in 2009, early evidence showed that more than 60 percent of patients taking the drug along with standard chemotherapy responded to the treatment.
Another large clinical trial is under way to prevent triple-negative breast cancer from returning, Keaton said.
Keaton was also involved in a 2005 study that led to approval of the breast cancer drug Herceptin by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006.
Herceptin treats breast cancer patients who have an excessive amount of the HER2 protein.
"That was considered a major breakthrough in breast cancer treatment," he said.
Keaton became interested in his field of medicine for personal reasons, he said. His mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he discovered he had melanoma as an intern in Texas.
A clinical trial researcher for about 25 years, Keaton graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and completed his postgraduate training in 1989 at Brooke Army Medical Center, near San Antonio.
He returned to the area in 2002 to become part of the Augusta Oncology team.
"When I first came, they did not have a research department, but within a year of getting here, we had it up and running," he said.
In his clinical trials, Keaton will test drugs to prevent cancer from recurring in patients whose cancer hasn't spread and improve the survival rates in those whose cancer has returned.
"It gives patients access to medicines and treatments they may have not been able to have or they would have had to travel large distances to receive," he said.
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