Debra L. Barton, RN, PhD, AOCN
Associate Professor, Oncology
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
(made possible by Nestlé Waters North America, Inc.)
Co-Investigator: Charles Loprinzi, MD
, Professor, Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester
Drs. Barton and Loprinzi's research focuses on alleviating the negative side effects related to breast cancer treatments that are experienced by patients. Specifically, they are examining the use of natural products, such as ginseng, to relieve chemotherapy-related fatigue. In 2011-2012, this team undertook an additional study that sought to address the physical discomforts faced by female cancer survivors who cannot use estrogen. Vaginal atrophy, causing dryness, discomfort, itching and pain with intercourse, is a significant problem for female cancer survivors who cannot use estrogen. Even low dose estrogen can have effects on tissue outside of the vagina and can present an unknown risk with respect to breast cancer.
A form of steroid called vaginal dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) is a potentially effective treatment for atrophy symptoms that may not have effects outside of the vagina. Dr. Barton and Loprinzi have begun to evaluate vaginal DHEA for vaginal dryness and pain, and their study continues to accrue ahead of schedule. Twenty-six community institutions are currently enrolling women, and there are 230 women on study and 456 serum samples have been sent for evaluation thus far. Based on current accrual averages, the team expects to complete the study by early summer 2013 and will be evaluating the biologic effects of DHEA along with the self-reported effects on dryness, pain and sexual health over the summer and early fall 2013. This study has been very well received by the women who are struggling with vaginal symptoms as well as the sites that are participating in the research. It can potentially define an effective and safe treatment for this important problem, which negatively impacts self-image, sexual health, and comfort.
Mid-year Progress: By February 2013, the study on developing a new treatment option for vaginal atrophy is scheduled to complete its planned enrollment of 456 patients on trial. Blood has been analyzed on 335 women and vaginal tissue has been evaluated for maturity on 60 women. Drs. Barton and Loprinzi are continuing the biologic analyses of collected samples as women are enrolled on the study. Women will have their final study visit by the end of May 2013. Therefore, all data should be entered and analyzed over the summer. Abstracts and manuscripts will be written during fall 2013. Drs. Barton and Loprinzi have received numerous positive comments about having an intervention available for women for vaginal issues, from both women participating in this study and from providers participating in this study. They look forward to seeing the results.
Debra Barton is an Associate Professor of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. She also serves as program coordinator for the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) Research Base of the North Central Cancer Treatment Group, where she is a clinical investigator. Dr. Barton is a full member of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center and part of the leadership team for Cancer Prevention and Control.
Dr. Barton received her doctoral degree from Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis. Dr. Barton has developed clinical trials to improve the health-related quality of life of cancer survivors in several areas including cognitive function, fatigue, sleep, hot flashes, neuropathy, sexual health, and nausea and vomiting. Her greatest contributions include the generation and dissemination of nursing knowledge which has transformed practice for cancer survivors in non-hormonal alternatives for hot flash management, sexual health and complementary therapies.
Dr. Barton is being inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in November, 2008. She is a member of Mayo Clinic's Institutional Review Board and is on the faculty at Mayo's Graduate School in Clinical and Translational Sciences. Dr. Barton serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is a Director at Large for the Society of Integrative Oncology, and serves as liaison from the National Cancer Institute Symptom Management/Quality of Life steering committee to the Investigational Drug Development Steering Committee. She also is a member of review committees for the National Institute of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and takes an active role in committees and projects with her national specialty organization, the Oncology Nursing Society.