Why I took a chance on immunotherapy

MD Anderson’s Dr. Patrick Hwu often tells me that if he could write a cancer success story, he would want it to read just like mine. Why? Because my treatment for stage IV kidney cancer in 2014 is the perfect example of what makes MD Anderson special. My story involves a determined oncologist, a talented surgeon, and a potent immunotherapy drug. All together, they have kept me cancer-free for nearly five years. My stage IV kidney cancer diagnosis When the kidney cancer I’d originally been treated for in Austin returned three years later, I was given a less than 5% chance of surviving. The emergency room doctor who diagnosed me said the disease had already spread to my spleen, pancreas, lungs, colon, appendix and bladder. And once cancer gets to that point (stage IV), he told me, it usually can’t be cured — only managed. But this time, I went to MD Anderson. And my oncologist there, Dr. Jianjun Gao, wasn’t satisfied with just giving me a pill to slow the cancer down. Something about my situation kept nagging at him, even after my first appointment. Dr. Gao later told me that he couldn’t stop thinking about my situation, so right after I left his office, he approached his chairman of the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Dr. Christopher Logothetis, to discuss my case. Drs. Logothetis and Gao recommended a regimen involving an immunotherapy drug called “interleukin 2” (IL-2). It was already being used to treat melanoma, but it could also be used to treat kidney cancer. When Dr. Gao told me about IL-2, I was excited to have...