Friday, May 4, 2012

Good news! Good news! I repeat, Good news!

actual microscopic image of my BRAF+
MEK being delivered at a cellular level
(my white blood cells wear body armor!)
I was just restaged last weeks after six weeks in the clinical trial on the combination targeted therapies of BRAF and MEK.  We knew the results would be good because all my palpable (fancy word for things you can feel with your fingers) tumors have gone away so there has definitely been some level of progress.  Now, I have not had any progress against the disease since I was diagnosed over a year ago.  None.  Every month or six-week interval has shown disease progression at varying rates, despite the very aggressive treatments we have tried.  These results from Moffitt would show for the first time that my level of disease has decreased, that I have become more healthy and less sick.  Level of disease can be measured by tumor load, and Moffitt adds the largest dimension of a select group of discrete, easily identifiable tumors.  For me, that's six tumors around my liver, in my lungs and upper torso.  When compared with the imaging study from the end of January, my tumor load has shrunk 61% in ten weeks!  The actual results are higher since the "before" imaging was when I was still on Temodar chemotherapy pills and before the significant cancer growth in February that almost did me in.  At that point, as the Marine saying goes, the enemy has us surrounded - and we have them just where we want them.  Then "boom"!
    Even better news was that my side effects from the targeted therapy have seemed to taper off at the lower dose (100mg instead of 150mg).  Now the side effects are minimal and I'm not at risk of being removed from the study.  And the rigor of my total treatment involves taking three pills in the morning and two in the evening and a day at Moffitt every month.  No wonder this combo therapy has become - as one doctor put it - the "phenom" in melanoma.  A low impact, quick acting, high response therapy for a disease that had almost no therapies with any one of those features.
     There is still the possibility the drugs will stop working at some point of course, but no one knows yet.  The good news is that the targeted therapies are coming on line as fast as the researchers can identify the specific genetic pathways that allow the cancer cells to regenerate.  As well, testing on combinations of targeted therapies with immunological therapies are just being started which promise to both knock-out cancer and keep it from coming back.  Its all very exciting and gives me hope of living a long and natural life, thanks to the miracles of science.  So hug someone in a lab coat today, and tell them thanks for me.
     While awesome news, we are trying to just live in the moment.  We are enjoying not having to deal with this on a daily basis.  I have some breathing room, some time, and I'm going to take full advantage of it.  We've restarted planning a summer vacation, I've committed to some new bike rides for the end of summer as I had to miss the ones I planned on this spring.  I'm setting goals and setting aside excuses.
     After holding the line for a year - my own little Battle of Britain - we've struck a mighty blow to cancer.  We've reduce it to less than half its former strength and the math for the next six weeks looks bad for cancer as well.  I am taking from it its ability to influence my daily life, relegating it to the far off battlefield.  And I have taken from it a renewed appreciation for these blue skies, for now void of black birds and storm clouds.