Living Beyond Stage 4 Melanoma with Immunotherapy
Being in a clinical trial saved my life, and to the people who are helping with this research, I say thank you.
When Los Angeles-area resident Janie Ferling learned in 2013 that a lump in her neck was malignant melanoma that required immediate surgery, her world turned upside-down. A mother of a teenage boy, she was determined to do whatever it took to be around as long as possible for her son.
Following surgery, treatment with an older and aggressive form of immunotherapy called interferon failed to keep Janie’s cancer at bay. Tumors appeared in her brain and again in her neck, and her hopes for surviving began to dim. Despite being told there were no more treatments available for her, Janie refused to quit. She began looking for a clinical trial and after searching for several months, enrolled in a trial at UCLA School of Medicine with Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D., a CRI-funded investigator specializing in immunotherapy for melanoma.
Dr. Ribas was the principal investigator on the study testing a new treatment that combines two immunotherapies—infusions of the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), and injections of a deactivated herpes virus-based treatment called T-Vec (Imlygic®), both of which received FDA approval as single-agent therapies in melanoma.
Janie’s tumor continued to grow despite treatment, but she remained on the trial. And then, six months later, her tumor began to disappear.
Today, that tumor is gone. But Janie isn’t out of the woods yet—there is another, smaller tumor in her neck, but it appears to be stable. As she will frankly admit, Janie may never be fully free of cancer, and she’s OK with that if it means she can continue to live her life and spend time traveling the world and making more memories with her son.
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