Ashley Trenner used to think a tan made her look younger. That was before she traded in the soft glow of a tanning bed for the white glare of a CT scanner that checks to see if an experimental melanoma drug is working.
"I used to say that I don't care if I die from tanning as long as I die tan. I used to say that. I don't think that way anymore."
Ashley never really thought she'd get skin cancer, much less in her thirties or that it would come back three years later with a vengeance.
"I had an ache in my right hip and I just reached down to kind of rub it and I went ohhhh, I felt a lump and I knew, I knew right then what it was."
So far, she's been on two clinical trials with no success. She's now trying a third drug.
"My doctor recommended I come down here and see Dr. Curti and to do OncoVEX," she said.
That means traveling to Portland weekly for a research study led by Dr, Brendan Curti at Providence Hospital.
"This particular treatment that she's currently getting is actually a genetically modified virus," he explained.
Doctors inject the virus directly into the tumors.
The goal is to get Ashley's own immune system to fight the infection.
"The hope is that the immune response would be so strong that it will eradicate the melanoma cells however they may be in the body," said Dr. Curti.
Ashley remains hopeful and wants to teach others about the dangers of tanning. She says it was lack of health insurance that kept her from going to a doctor and now she's paying a much bigger price.
"Don't procrastinate. That's what I did. i could have been in a lot better position had I not procrastinated. I would have still had it but I wouldn't be in the position I am today."
More information: http://www.biovex.com/oncovex.html