A new clinic in downtown Rapid City offers a supplemental care option for those who have received that most dreaded of diagnoses: cancer.
Care Oncology Clinic, 910 Main St., Suite 120, is one of two such clinics worldwide offering trial treatments involving a cocktail mix of existing medications originally approved to treat other maladies, according to Travis Christofferson of Rapid City, CEO of Care Oncology’s U.S. Division.
“What Care Oncology is doing is filling this unmet need to try to realize the efficacy of these drugs,” he said.
Christofferson is a 1990 graduate of Rapid City Stevens High School. He earned his undergraduate degree in microbiology from Montana State University and his master’s in Material Engineering and Science from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
After earning his undergraduate degree, he was accepted to attend the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, but at the last minute, he decided not to seek a medical degree.
“I realized I liked the scientific part of medicine more than the clinical part of medicine,” he said.
Christofferson took an independent study class on cancer while at Mines and that eventually led to his 2014 book “Tripping over the Truth. The Metabolic Theory of Cancer,” relating the development of a theory of how a cell’s flawed absorption of blood sugars, or metabolism, may lead to the growth and spread of cancer.
While on a lecture tour in London about a year and a half ago, he met research oncologists with London-based Care Oncology Clinic, which for the last four years had been researching the effects of “off-target” medications — drugs already approved to treat a particular condition but found to have potential for treating other diseases.
Care Oncology doctors there expressed a desire to expand to the United States.
“We struck up a collaboration because we’re aligned scientifically to what they’re doing," Christofferson said. "So I convinced them to start small and expand right here in Rapid City, because I’m obviously from here and we could work out the logistics from here."
Christofferson said there are thousands of so-called “off-target” drugs which wind up shelved, or “stranded,” once a separate beneficial effect is noted.
Pharmaceutical companies consider the off-target, off-patent generic drugs unworthy of the investment needed for new testing and recertification in treating other diseases.
“Doctors call them financial orphans," Christofferson said. "These drugs sit there and languish. We know they have use, but they’ve never realized their potential."
Care Oncology Clinic’s doctors and researchers sifted through data from thousands of generic drugs looking for indicators of anti-cancer effect and developed a combo of four drugs with the best potential of augmenting cancer care.
Their medicinal cocktail includes a proprietary mix of Glucophage (Metformin), a first-line treatment for Type 2 diabetes, Statins for treatment of high cholesterol, Mebendazole, an antifungal, and Doxycycline, an antibiotic.
The research is incomplete, but all have shown promise, in different ways, in interrupting the supply of nutrients to cancer cells, he said.
New medications must undergo years of clinical trials before being approved for use, and even then, their effectiveness and potential for toxicity and side effects may not be entirely known for years. The off-target drugs are already well-known and familiar.
“The advantage of these drugs is that they’ve been in the clinic for decades. We know the toxicology and side effects,” he said.
The clinic charges a fee for its treatments, which are currently outside of insurance coverage, he said.
Christofferson is regularly meeting with Regional Health Pharmacists and Oncologists. “We’re hoping to get a closer relationship (with Regional),” he said.
Christofferson emphasized that Care Oncology’s regimen is not a replacement for other standard of care treatments, rather it is meant to supplement other cancer therapies, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
“Our goal is to make standard of care work better. We can’t say if it works better until we have all the data,” he said.
BISMARCK, N.D. | Like many of his predecessors, new Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith is aiming to combat the issues of unemployment, housing and drug abuse on the reservation.
While these are long-standing issues for the people of Standing Rock, Faith said he thinks there has been a shift within the communities of people wanting to see a positive change.
"The elders, the grandmas saying enough is enough," Faith said. "And the young people are hearing them and know (drugs) are not welcome."
Like the rest of the state and nation, the people of Standing Rock are battling the crisis of opioid abuse. The tribe, along with a number of other tribes and cities in the state, recently received a grant — Standing Rock's in the amount of $70,000 — to provide drug treatment and prevention, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Under his leadership, Faith said he hopes the tribal council will approve working agreements with other governmental agencies to continue to better care.
"Partnership is the only way to solve this," he said.
But he is also calling on the people of Standing Rock to work for this change among themselves. In his first months in office, he has trips planned to each community to ask how the council can help the communities help themselves.
In addition to drug abuse, Faith said he plans to look for employment solutions. He said the tribe has the casino and a number of other business ventures through Standing Rock Industries. Faith said he wants to work toward even more ventures so those tribal members who receive a higher education have somewhere to work within their home communities.
Faith has 19 years of experience as an employee of the tribe, having worked for Standing Rock's Game and Fish Department. He has also served a term as a councilman at large on the tribal council.
Faith said he chose to run for chairman because he feels he's in touch with people and can make a difference.
"My heart is there for people," he said.
The National Park Service announced last week that it is planning a number of upgrades to Devils Tower National Monument that will improve accessibility and visitor experience.
The most significant is a new accessible approach to the 1.3-mile-long Tower Trail, which winds around the base of the tower. The trail is the most popular hiking path in the park, which attracts around 500,000 visitors every year, said spokeswoman Nancy Stimson.
Other improvements include new interpretive exhibits along the Tower Trail, an interpretive plaza and accessible walkways to the trailhead and visitor center. A climber registration office will also be developed and installed.
In addition, new accessible exhibits will be added to the visitor center, along with more parking spaces and a new bus drop off area.
The upgrades are currently in the planning phase, and Stimson said start and completion dates have not been set. Devils Tower was one of nine sites selected by the National Parks Service for a targeted accessibility project.
The improvements are expected to make the park more accessible to people with disabilities.
“We intend to break down the barriers and embrace greater inclusivity by strategically upgrading existing facilities, programs, and services for accessibility by focusing on key visitor experiences at Devils Tower,” Tim Reid, Devils Tower National Monument superintendent, said in a release.
A cost for the improvements has not been determined. Stimson said she does not expect that any of the trails will close once work begins.
Devils Tower is located around 110 miles northwest of Rapid City and is a popular destination for both hikers and climbers.
"We've been wanting to make these improvements for quite a long time," Stimson said. "This is very exciting for all of us."
The National Park Service is accepting public comments on the planned improvements through Dec. 31. Comments may be submitted online at parkplanning.nps.gov/DETOTAIP.