Clinical trials give hope to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia survivor

George Miller is an athlete and a die-hard marathon runner, so he was shocked when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s gotta be a mistake,’” George says. “‘I’m too healthy to have cancer.’” A swollen lymph node and some occasional spells of fatigue were his only real non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma symptoms, but his general practitioner assured him they were probably nothing. Two months and a course of antibiotics later, the swelling was still there. George’s doctor ordered a needle biopsy. A non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis George was halfway through an eight-mile run the next day when his doctor called him with the results: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A second biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. “That was a shocker,” George says. “Your whole world is flipped upside-down, and you wonder what’s next.” Choosing a clinical trial ‘to kill cancer’ George’s girlfriend, a Houston native, urged him to get to MD Anderson. Within a few days of requesting an appointment, he was making the 200-mile drive from San Antonio to meet with Felipe Samaniego, M.D., whom he affectionately calls “Dr. Sam.” Once here, George immediately felt that he’d made the right decision. “I just had this feeling of peace come over me,” he says. “Something in my spirit told me, ‘This is the place you belong.’” After discussing his options, George enrolled in a Phase II clinical trial under Samaniego. The trial involved a new combination of medicines: a chemo drug called Revlimid (lenalidomide) and an immunotherapy drug called Rituxin (rituximab). Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s own natural defense system to fight cancer.  “I didn’t want to do traditional treatment, because...

Surviving glioblastoma after war

Tate Landin was 23 and training for his first deployment with the U.S. Army when he began to notice his brain tumor symptoms. “About once a month I would smell this sharp, metallic scent and my arms would tingle,” Tate says. He would later learn the brief episodes were symptoms of a left temporal lobe brain tumor, but at the time, he was diagnosed with anxiety attacks and cleared for duty.  Tate deployed to Afghanistan as a first lieutenant in October 2012. He and his wife, Jessica, had welcomed their daughter, Abigail, into the world just a few months earlier. Soon after arriving on base, Tate noticed his symptoms were getting worse. He was told that further evaluation would require a trip to Germany, where the Army had more sophisticated diagnostic equipment. But before he had a chance to make the trip, his convoy was hit by an IED. One of Tate’s friends, a staff sergeant who was driving the truck in front of him, was killed in the blast. Tate decided that staying with his unit was more important than traveling to Germany for testing. “I volunteered to drive the lead truck after that,” Tate says. “I knew something was wrong with my health, but I didn’t want to leave.” He completed his nine-month tour of duty and returned home to Texas, safe, but not quite sound. A new battle: glioblastoma “He came home from one battle to fight another,” Jessica says. A few months after Tate returned home, she received a frightening phone call from him. “He called me as he was driving, and he was speaking...