Phase I clinical trial gives renal cell carcinoma survivor life

Because of his father’s prostate cancer history, Carl “Travis”
Klimitchek always made health screenings a priority.

But he didn’t expect his doctor to spot blood in his urine during a
2005 checkup. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to have my stuff mixed up with
somebody else,’” says Travis, who was 44 at the time.

A CT scan and X-ray revealed a grapefruit-sized tumor on his left
kidney. His doctor diagnosed him with renal cell carcinoma, the most
common type of kidney cancer. “I was shocked,” Travis says. “I
hadn’t noticed any symptoms.”

Choosing MD Anderson for renal
cell carcinoma treatment

Within a week, Travis had surgery to remove the tumor and kidney in
Victoria, Texas. Tests revealed a spot on his lungs, but the doctor
suggested it was only scar tissue.

That’s when Travis decided to seek a second opinion. He’d heard
MD Anderson was the place to go for
cancer treatment, and it wasn’t far from his home in Hallettsville,
Texas. Within 10 days, he had his first appointment.

At MD Anderson, Travis began renal cell
carcinoma treatment under Nizar Tannir, M.D. “He was very professional,”
Travis says. “He didn’t sugar-coat anything, and he encouraged us to
ask questions.”

After further testing, Travis learned the spot on his left lung was
cancer. Dr. Tannir started him on the oral chemo drug Sorafenib. The
next summer, he switched to Sunitinib. Then, in September 2006, Travis
had surgery to remove six nodules on his lung.

Travis’ chemotherapy side effects

Over the next three years, Travis tried more chemotherapy drugs –
Afinitor, Gemzar, Xeloda, Avastin and Velcade. The cancer continued to
spread to his right lung and abdomen.

Chemotherapy wasn’t easy on Travis. He lost 60 pounds and faced
constant fatigue. “There were times when I would just lie in bed and
thought I should just give up,” Travis recalls. “My wife, Audrey,
would come in and say, ‘You can’t give up. You might help someone.’
She was my rock.”

Choosing a Phase I clinical trial

By 2009, Travis’ renal cell carcinoma had spread more. “If you
dipped your finger in water and splattered it — that’s what it looked
like in my lungs,” he says.

Dr. Tannir suggested he enroll in a Phase I clinical trial. Travis agreed. “There wasn’t
anything else left to do,” he says. “We had tried all the other options.”

In December, he began taking an experimental drug.

Travis followed the protocol strictly, taking the pills each
afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

He quickly saw results. “During chemo, Audrey had to push me in a
wheelchair when we parked at MD Anderson,”
he says. “But now I was able to walk and started feeling better.”

Amazing Phase I clinical trial results

Six weeks after starting the Phase I clinical trial, Travis returned
to MD Anderson. He’d noticed that his
pleural catheter, which drained fluid from his lungs, seemed clogged.
After the CT scan, the technician told him there was a drastic change
in his disease. The doctor described it as “amazing.”

That’s when Travis learned why the catheter was hardly draining: the
cancer on his lungs was shrinking. Over the next few months, the
cancer began to disappear. By April 2010, CT scans showed no sign of cancer.

A bright future

The Klimitcheks now return to MD
Anderson
every three months to see David Hong, M.D. Travis will take the
experimental drug indefinitely.

Travis now encourages other patients to consider clinical trials,
especially here at MD Anderson. “MD Anderson gave me something that wouldn’t be
prescribed anywhere else. If you get a chance to try a new drug, by
all means, do it,” he says. “If it doesn’t work, it may still help
someone else.”

Travis believes he wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for MD Anderson and the clinical trial available
to him here.

“The Phase I team at MD Anderson is like
family – a wonderful, caring group of people,” says Travis, who’s been
in remission for six years now. “If it weren’t for them and the
clinical trial available to me here, I don’t think I would’ve gotten
to watch my three children graduate from high school and college. I’ll
soon walk my daughter down the aisle, and I have a lot of life left to live.”