Roy remembers the day he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He was told that he had about a year and a half or two years, and so he started getting his affairs in order.
That was five years ago.
After beginning standard chemotherapy treatment at New England Cancer Specialists in July of 2012, Roy experienced some of the common side effects, such as nausea. But the treatment only slowed the progress of his disease. It did not reduce the size of his tumor, or stop the progression of his cancer.
When his doctor brought up the option of being treated on new clinical trial for which he was eligible, Roy remembers thinking, “Why not? What do I have to lose?”
In November of 2013, Roy enrolled in one of the first immunotherapy trials NECS offered for advanced lung cancer, and he was randomized to receive the experimental treatment. For Roy, he believes the new treatment made a difference. His tumor stopped growing, and began to shrink. There has been no evidence of progressive disease, and the side effects he had experienced on his previous treatment regimen went away.
Unlike standard chemotherapy, immunotherapy is treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. Immunotherapy includes treatments that work in different ways. Some boost the body’s immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically.
With his cancer well controlled, Roy went back to enjoying time with his family, and one of his favorite hobbies – building wooden boats. For the past three years, he’s been working on a big 27-foot cruising boat. He’s taking his time, relishing the work when he feels like it, and taking time off for trips to Florida and North Carolina during the winter months. He continues to receive immunotherapy as part of the clinical trial, and is monitored closely by his treatment team.
For Roy, treatment on a clinical trial was the right choice, and a choice he made after talking with his family and his oncologist. He offers this advice for others who are thinking about clinical trials: “If you have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial, you might have the benefit of feeling better. And the trial might be of benefit to others coming down the road.”
Clinical trials such as the one Roy is participating in have been critical in providing the evidence needed for FDA approval of these types of treatments for all cancer patients. There are now several immunotherapy treatments that are FDA-approved for the treatment of patients with advanced lung cancer.
If you’re curious about clinical trials, you can learn more here, or speak to your physician. Clinical trials are not right for everyone, and no patient is ever required to participate in a clinical trial.