Sixty-eight year-old Bob Murphy shows me the walking poles that aid his stroll over the Bay Area’s Dumbarton Bridge. With his wife at his side, the two-mile walk was peppered with rest stops every 50 yards when he first began a battle with stage 4 lung cancer in 2016.
At Sutter, we take pride in offering evidence-based treatments to our patients.
Three years later, Bob walks the bridge with greater ease and energy, thanks to the
renewed health afforded by a game-changing clinical trial that may have contributed
to his remission.
“A persistent cough was the first sign that something was wrong,” says Bob, who was working as a plumber in Redwood City when first diagnosed with lung cancer. A chest X-ray and CT scan at Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF)’s Fremont Center revealed a fist-sized tumor in his lower left lung.
“Never did I imagine so badly wanting my ‘old life’ back,” says Bob, who received platinum-based chemotherapy and radiation to treat the lung tumor and cancerous cells that had spread to his lymph nodes.
But the side effects from chemotherapy left him bed-ridden for a year. Bob and his wife began researching other treatment options, and were intrigued after reading results of clinical trials testing new drugs called immunotherapies to treat patients with lung cancer and other types of cancer.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Immunotherapies are designed to “target” the genetic aberrations present in a subset of cancers in people with the disease, compared with standard, first-line therapies like chemotherapy or radiation.
consulting with his oncologist at PAMF, Bryant Sheh, M.D., Bob qualified for participation
in a clinical trial called Lung-MAP being offered through PAMF’s research institute.
November 2017 marked Bob’s first treatment on the clinical trial, in which he
began receiving infusions of two immunotherapy drugs called ipilimumab and nivolumab
every two weeks.
Sponsored by a cancer organization called Southwest Oncology Group, Lung-MAP is a national clinical trial available for qualifying patients with advanced cancers whose tumor has continued to grow, even after being treated with standard therapy.
“After the first couple infusions of the immunotherapy drugs, I felt an incredible difference in energy and lung capacity,” says Bob. Bob’s improvement was reflected in the CT scans: after five months on the Lung-MAP clinical trial, Bob’s tumor had shrunk by approximately 40% compared with its size before treatment. The pleural effusion surrounding his left lung (akin to a bag of water) also deflated dramatically.
Now in remission, Bob sees his oncologist for check-ups every two weeks and continues to receive immunotherapy twice monthly.
“I was committed to fight this disease and explore every option for treatment,”
says Bob. “Clinical research provided me the chance to be proactive in my journey
with cancer and to walk toward health again. I wish the same opportunities for other
people with this disease.”
Bob’s oncologist Dr. Sheh is equally excited about Bob’s renewed health and cancer remission. “At Sutter we take pride in offering evidence-based, innovative and personalized therapies for our patients. We are proud to have participated in many pivotal trials that have redefined standards of care. Participation in clinical trials allows us to evaluate the latest that medical science has to offer to our patients, right where they live.”