AUSTIN (KXAN) — Andrea Sloan’s battle with ovarian cancer inspired thousands of people and her fight to get an experimental drug rallied a virtual Army. Tuesday, the Governor’s Commission for Women recognized her efforts for compassionate use reform as part of the induction ceremony for the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.
Inductees must be living, but Sloan’s life and story inspired the commission to recognize a group of women ‘in memoriam’ for the first time ever.
“Andrea Sloan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006 and transformed her personal struggle into a movement to increase access to lifesaving experimental drugs,” the commission said. “Backed by “Andi’s Army” and more than 230,000 petitioners, Andrea took her message to reform the “compassionate use” system before Congress. Her message gained national attention and inspired people across the world.”
John and Karen Sloan still grieve their daughter, four months after her death on New Year’s Day.
“As a dad obviously I adore and miss her,” John said. “It’s really touching to know that others have appreciated her in the ways that I have and so it’s an honor for all of us.”
“It in some ways means a fulfillment of her dream,” Karen said. “I think in some ways she felt her life was going to be cut short and she wouldn’t be able to make a difference. She was able to make a profound difference and I think this honor, this recognition, really reinforces that and as a parent, I couldn’t be prouder. It’s going to take a while for that to sink in, but obviously as parents we’re proud and I feel it’s an honor that she has earned and I hope she’s watching.”
The Sloans believe the fight Andrea started is far from finished because it still takes too long for terminally ill patients to get access to life saving experimental drugs.
“She had that at the top of her mind until the last, literally few hours before she passed away,” John said. “Obviously she fought heroically to save her own life.”
“The system is just not working and as parents of a child who needs that drug, I don’t think there’s any way to express the anguish of having something, literally, it’s as far away as the yes on the right person’s lips,” Karen added.
Sloan was the executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project, a non-profit organization in Austin that helps victims of domestic and sexual violence. Last July, she learned her ovarian cancer had returned and she had exhausted all of the tradition therapies. Her doctors believed her best hope was an experimental drug in development by the drug company, BioMarin. But that company refused to grant Sloan compassionate use of their drug, citing safety concerns, even though the Food and Drug Administration said Sloan was a good candidate for compassionate use.
Current rules require the FDA to approve compassionate use of a drug for a terminally ill patient, but only if it is allowed by the drug company.
Sloan waited three months before another company granted her compassionate use of their drug in October, but her body was already weakened from fighting the disease with no treatment.
“Andrea Sloan was a fighter her entire life,” Congressman Michael McCaul said Tuesday. “Because of her efforts to obtain cancer treatments through Compassionate Use, this critical issue is now at the forefront of the public’s attention. Her gallant efforts singlehandedly advanced the cause of making potentially life-saving treatments available for future patients.”
McCaul helped author a piece of legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to buy potentially life saving experimental drugs from drug companies, who would not be liable if the treatment did not work. That legislation is still waiting in committee.
“I commend the Governor’s Commission for Women for honoring Andrea’s important story,” McCaul continued. “It is now up to those of us in the policy arena to carry her torch forward.”