I am at the edge of the water by the Tarzan swing at Mount Midoriyama, and though I can almost make out the platform with the American Ninja Warrior winner button off in the distance, there’s only one path to get to there. It’s reasonably short, but if I falter, I’m out. I am on track to get into one of two clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland. I fly up there to go through a 2-day battery of tests either next week or the week after. This in no way means that I have rung the bell. In fact, in real life, Arlene, the clinical trial nurse I’ve been talking with says I am ABSOLUTELY NOT accepted into the program yet. But…
There is one very smart and progressive doctor doing two trials that include study on Thymic Carcinoma at the NCI. Pretty impressive, as last year at this time (I was recovering from surgery and Bugs Bunny Eyes exactly one year ago this week), there was pretty much nothing lifesaving for me going on in clinical trials. I am not telling you the doc’s name at this time, because I am superstitious. And because there’s nothing anyone can do to help me get into one of these trials and I don’t want anyone to try.
One of the trials is the one I’ve been searching for, PD-L1. It is immunotherapy that aims to convince your own body’s immune system to kill the cancer cell (Programmed (cell) Death). For some reason, our immune systems sometimes don’t recognize or fight invading cancer cells; that’s why they grow. This blocker convinces the immune system to keep working. It’s an intensive treatment regimen that would require a 3-day hospital stay and return trips to Besthesda weekly for a month, then bi-monthly for a long time, if the therapy works. Because this is a Phase ll trial, the doc isn’t escalating doses, so the side effects should be pretty much nil, except for extreme jet lag from flying across country twice a week.
The other trial is for Sunitinib, or Sutent. It’s a targeted chemotherapy (horrors!) that blocks the proteins that help cancer cells grow. It’s already been approved for a couple of cancers. It’s targeted, not systemic, but there are some pretty typical chemotherapy side effects, including nausea and potentially hair loss. If I get the chance to choose that course of action, I’d start that drug the day after the tests (if I pass) and return to DC every 3 weeks for monitoring.
There are only 2 spots left in the PD-L1 trial and a few more than that in the Sutent trial. If accepted, I get to pick which one I do. So far, I know this: One TC patient is not responding on that PD-L1 trial. Two ARE responding in the Sutent trial. I am still leaning toward PD-L1, and Dr Akerley likes it better for me, too. I could move from PD-L1 to Sutent if the first trial didn’t work and if there were still room for me.
Of course, this could all be academic. As Arlene says my tests are the next obstacle. If my glucose measures 17 and they need a 16, I’m out. She says there is no gray, just black and white in a clinical trial. My American Ninja Warrior obstacle course isn’t the crazy monkey bars over the water or the seemingly impossible parallel walls that you have to spider monkey up. If only it were a series of physical tests, I’d feel a bit more confident. I haven’t heard of a way to train your body to give the right numbers to pass these tests. Maybe I should contact someone in professional cycling. JUST KIDDING.
So immediately, I am waiting to see when Arlene can get me into two days of tests. My Lake Tahoe half ironman most likely will only be a partial race, as I know that long races wreak havoc with my kidney, liver, and blood values. (Cortisol, I think.) Luckily, I have a long history of having blood tests and i know how extreme exercise affects me. Once again, my fun and lovely fall plans are at the brink of being blown to smithereens. I’ll salvage what I can. Strategerizing for maximum adventure is my specialty. In the meantime, cross your fingers that I can get across the Double Salmon Ladder.
PS. And this has nothing to do with this post, really, but it happened, too! BOOM!
Just had a nice chat with full on cancer ass kicker @wchioji. Love her spirit. Twitterati, let's send her all out positive vibes!!
— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) September 2, 2014