Long Island woman is 1st on East Coast in novel clinical cancer study

NEW HYDE PARK, Long Island (WABC) -- The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Women with Stories of Courage," which is a perfect description for 74-year-old Anita Wolf, of Lake Grove.

On February 8, the mother, grandmother, and retired officer worker became the first patient on the East Coast to participate in the Pressurized Intraperitoneal Aerosol Chemotherapy (PIPAC) clinical trial.

"When asked to do the trial, her first words were, 'Sign me up, let's do it,'" daughter Jennifer Zupan said. "And she never waivered."

PIPAC is an entirely new way of giving chemotherapy that could one day become an effective option for abdominal cancer patients who currently have few treatment choices, and Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Medical Center is second site in United States to enroll a patient.

It may also be an alternative for people with end-stage peritoneal cancer, which is cancer in the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in it.

That was the case with Wolf.

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Her story began in October 2019, when her daughter Jennifer strongly urged her to go for a routine colonoscopy.

The test revealed that she was already in Stage 2A of colon cancer, meaning that the cancer hadn't yet spread. But a follow-up CAT scan in January 2020 revealed that the cancer had spread to the liver.

She began chemo for a three-month period on Valentine's Day 2020, but sadly, the cancer continued to grow. At this time, she was advised to participate in the PIPAC clinical trial.

Her surgical oncologist, Dr. Danielle DePeralta, told the family that Wolf would have to be off traditional chemo for several weeks. For that reason, the surgery was scheduled for February 8.

"I've been deeply moved by her courage, compassion, love for husband and children," surgical oncologist Dr. DePeralta said.

During PIPAC, chemotherapy is essentially sprayed into the abdomen through a small incision.

"With PIPAC, what's amazing to me is that you're delivering it right to where the tumors are," said Dr. Richard Whelan, Chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Northwell. "So you're bypassing the blood stream."

An that means there's less toxicity and fewer complications. PIPAC involves three surgeries, scheduled six weeks apart. Wolf also undergoes frequent follow-up appointments and blood tests.

She acknowledged that she is proud to be part of a clinical trial and hopes that the knowledge gleaned from her participation will prove helpful to her doctors, surgeons and future patients.

"I feel like if I can help myself, that's a plus," she said. "I would feel very happy over that."

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She and her husband Tom are now looking forward to celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary on March 18. To honor his courageous wife one month to the day after her surgery, Tom Wolf surprised his bride with an opal necklace, the traditional symbol for the 43rd anniversary.

"She's the one who's brave," he said. "It's pleasure to be married to Anita for 42 years."

He says he is looking forward to the next 43 years with his wife, with whom he says he has shared a lifetime of fun.

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