Immunotherapy Treats Stage 4 Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer strikes

Claud’s diagnosis of stage four non-small cell lung cancer, the most common of two types of lung cancer, shook him — and understandably so.

He lost his father and three sisters to lung cancer. Colorectal cancer had claimed the lives of his mother and maternal grandfather. He was scared he might lose his fight with cancer and hoped for a miracle.

With the support of Jason Thomas, MD, a medical oncologist at AHN Cancer Institute, Claud took on cancer with full force. About a week after being discharged from Forbes, Claud began a round of 10 daily radiation treatments to treat a painful tumor that had spread to his spine.

Shortly after completing radiation, he was enrolled in a clinical trial that included immunotherapy and a series of 30 chemo treatments. It had the potential of being a real game changer in his care and life.

Immunotherapy supercharges the body’s ability to fight cancer

The immune system protects us from diseases by recognizing foreign substances and attacking them. However, it doesn’t always identify cancer cells as foreign or attack them as effectively. Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts a patient’s immune system to fight cancer more effectively.

“Dr. Thomas told me that if he were in my position, he’d try the immunotherapy,” Claud said. “That was pretty powerful to hear and helped me make the decision to participate in the trial.”

Between Dr. Thomas’ encouragement and Claud’s family history, Claud felt that this option could be the miracle he’d hoped for. He enrolled in the trial without hesitation.

“On this study, Claud received a combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and an inhibitor of tumor blood supply all at the same time,” said Gene Finley, MD, AHN Cancer Institute medical oncologist who is coordinating AHN’s participation in the clinical trial. “Results of this study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2018, demonstrate improved responses and better survival in patient’s receiving the experimental therapy.”

While surviving cancer and living well were still very much on Claud’s mind, he felt even more empowered by how his participation could help others in the future. By giving, Claud received the best gift possible: living each day fully.

‘I have my life back’

Since beginning immunotherapy, Claud has more time to do what he loves — like cooking, reading, watching Pittsburgh’s sports teams and spending time with his family. He will remain on the immunotherapy and inhibitor for as long as the lung cancer responds to treatment.

“I have my life back,” Claud said. “If somebody had told me in November 2015 that I’d still be alive years down the road, I wouldn’t have believed them. My case is a glowing example of how far cancer treatment has come.”

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