Ronald Staab Jr

Ron Staab

Ronald Staab Jr. of Westerville, Ohio, can’t say with certainty whether participating in a clinical trial after his kidney cancer treatment will have lasting benefit, but so far so good.

“Has the clinical trial helped me? I don’t know, but it definitely hasn’t hurt me,” says Staab, who has been cancer-free since having one of his kidneys removed at a central Ohio hospital and then spending a year on a drug clinical trial at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

“If I got a glimmer of extra help, then I’m OK with it and feeling good about it,” he adds.

Staab, an executive professor in the School of Management and Leadership at Capital University in Columbus, considers his 2013 diagnosis of renal cell carcinoma at age 50 to have been a fluke.

While recovering from surgery that repaired a sports-related knee injury, he began experiencing joint pain. A rheumatologist could find nothing wrong, but a subsequent computed tomography (CT) scan revealed a kidney tumor the size of a tennis ball that grew even larger before the kidney, which was barely functional, was surgically removed.

Because the tumor had invaded Staab’s renal vein and was shedding cancer cells into his bloodstream, his surgeon recommended that he go to the OSUCCC – James for potential enrollment on a clinical trial that might help rid his body of circulating malignant cells.

Staab found that he qualified for an international phase III clinical trial in which the OSUCCC – James was participating.

The randomized, double-blind study is evaluating whether the drug pazopanib can prevent or delay kidney cancer recurrence in patients who are at moderate to high risk of having their cancer return after surgery.

“When you get diagnosed with cancer,” Staab says, “you’re almost willing to try anything that could prolong your life.”

Because it is a double-blind study, Staab does not know whether he was in the group of patients receiving the experimental drug or the group receiving a placebo (inactive substance) for comparison.

But based on the temporary side effects Staab experienced—whitening of his hair, losing his sense of taste and having his immune system greatly diminished—his doctor told him it was safe to assume that he was receiving the drug. He remained on the trial for a year, the longest period allowable for him under study criteria, and now is regularly monitored for recurrence.

“It was all worth it if it extended my life,” says Staab, who is married and has three children. “My life as a cancer survivor has been awesome. There are many things you don’t realize until you’ve had cancer. It makes me take things in and appreciate them more. I think about things differently and more extensively now.”

He also is pleased with his experience at Ohio State. “I couldn’t have had a better partner than The James. The level of commitment from not only my doctors and nurses but everyone around Ohio State and The James was unbelievable; they were very supportive.

“When you have cancer, you get poked and prodded a lot during treatment, and you get tired of it,” Staab adds. “But people at The James wanted to make everything so easy for me. I wouldn’t trade The James for anything.”

He notes that he “could have declined the opportunity to be in a clinical trial,” but he’s glad he opted to enroll after being informed about “the odds of getting good results. I absolutely wanted to have those extra chances….getting a checkup every six months is a small price to pay.”