Why a melanoma survivor chose an immunotherapy clinical trial

In the middle of 2014, Daron Gribble received some unexpected news: a
persistent sore spot under his right cheekbone had tested positive for
nodular melanoma. When his local dermatologist urged him
to find an oncologist, he knew exactly where to turn. Daron’s sister,
a nurse in the Houston area, referred him to her close friend, Randal Weber, M.D., chair of Head and Neck
Surgery at MD Anderson.

“Dr. Weber’s compassion reassured me that I was in good hands,”
Daron says. “He came up with a plan and laid out the options for me.

Soon thereafter, Weber performed surgery to remove all traces of
malignant tissue from Daron’s jaw, devised a strategy to monitor for
recurrence and sent Daron back to his busy life in north Texas.

Immunotherapy clinical trial provides hope

Unfortunately, a routine CT scan in late 2015 showed the melanoma
had come back and spread to his right lung. Weber presented Daron with
three options: chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, or an immunotherapy clinical trial involving
inhibitors of IDO-1 and PD-L1. Driven by a strong desire to keep his
oilfield services business running and to be present for his family,
Daron opted for the clinical trial.

“I chose immunotherapy for one main reason: I knew I would recover
quickly after each treatment, and the quality of life would allow me
to work,” he says.

Daron’s care was coordinated by Hussein Tawbi, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor
of Melanoma Medical Oncology, and Aung Naing, M.D., associate professor of
Investigational Cancer Therapeutics. He began the first of 24
intravenous treatments in February 2016, and was able to continue
working with the ceaseless support of his wife, who drove him back and
forth to Houston every other Wednesday.

Over the next 13 months of treatment, Daron’s MD Anderson care team became his extended family.

“My family at MD Anderson steered me
through the most challenging year I’ve ever had,” he says. “Everyone
from the nurses drawing my blood every Wednesday morning to Dr.
Naing’s targeted therapy group and clinical staff — their compassion
and dedication helped sustain me during this journey.”

Giving back to MD Anderson

Daron’s cancer responded well to the immunotherapy, and today he is
feeling healthier than ever. Most importantly, he’s not afraid of
another recurrence.

“Dr. Naing said at my last appointment that we’ve got a bunch of
other options to try,” he says.

To give back to the MD Anderson
, Daron contributes to Polo on the Prairie, an annual event in Albany,
Texas. It features a world-class polo match, live music and barbecue,
and proceeds benefit cancer research and patient care programs at
MD Anderson. The event is even more
meaningful for Daron following his cancer experience. This year’s
event is slated for April 29.

“My goal is to continue the rest of my life being a fan of MD Anderson and sharing that with those who
need this experience to survive,” he says. “I believe that the doctors
and staff are all there for a reason, and they are second to none.”

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