Clinical trial gives uterine cancer survivor hope

Cancer was a part of Maria Lozano’s life long before she became a
patient and joined a clinical trial at MD Anderson.

Her mother died of breast cancer at age 34, when Maria was just 10.
Haunted by the experience, Maria did her best to take good care of
herself. She didn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and always tried to eat
right. She also had regular medical checkups, including annual
mammograms and Pap tests.

“I’m the eldest of six,” Maria says. “So when I was growing up, it
was always in the back of our minds. Once we were adults, my sisters
and I would remind each other to get mammograms.”

No uterine cancer warning

Because she had always been so vigilant, Maria didn’t worry when she
stopped menstruating at age 49. She had been experiencing hot flashes,
too. Her doctor said it was early menopause.

“I thought it was normal,” Maria says. “I never thought I would have
another kind of cancer.”

But something kept bothering Maria on the right side of her body, so
she went back to the doctor. Nothing was found.

A surprise uterine cancer diagnosis

A decade later, Maria started bleeding vaginally. The chronic
discomfort in her side had also turned to pain. An ultrasound and a CT
scan finally revealed why: Maria had stage III uterine cancer.

“I asked my doctor, ‘How did this happen? I’ve been coming to see
you every year.’” Her doctor said that sometimes a Pap test doesn’t
tell the whole story.

“It was like someone had punched me in the stomach,” Maria says.
“All these years, I was thinking I was preventing that. It was just an
awful feeling.”

Finding hope at MD Anderson

So, in 2009, Maria came to MD Anderson.
Once here, Maria had surgery to remove her uterus, ovaries, and
fallopian tubes, as well as some nearby lymph nodes and part of her
omentum (a structure in the abdomen). Eight weeks of chemotherapy and
radiation treatments followed. But by December 2009, it was clear that
the treatments weren’t working. Maria was encouraged to consider a
clinical trial with Aung Naing, M.D.

Maria felt so weak that she didn’t think she could take the clinical
trial. But her youngest sister — a nurse — told her not to give up.
“She said everybody is different and what works for one person doesn’t
work for another,” Maria says. “So I went back.”

Maria had her first appointment with Dr. Naing on her
60th birthday.

Clinical trial proves effective

As a part of the clinical trial, Maria began taking Avastin and
Temsirolimus. She saw the benefits almost immediately. 

“I couldn’t believe it,” Maria says. “It was like a miracle. I
started having more energy. Foods that made me sick before didn’t make
me sick anymore. My hope was growing and growing.”

Chance of survival goes from slim to certain

The experimental drugs in the clinical trial proved so effective
that Naing eventually took Maria off of them entirely. She has been in
remission since November 2014.

“I am almost sure the uterine cancer won’t come back,” Maria says.
“But we all know how sneaky cancer is. If this one does, Dr. Naing
already has a plan.”

Finding healing at MD Anderson

For Maria, the best part of coming to MD
was the people.

“Everybody there was so wonderful,” she says. “Especially Dr. Naing
and his assistant, Amy Patel. After all the testing, examinations, and
treatment, your dignity is down on the floor. My spirit was kind of
weak also. But the environment at MD
is just so positive. They didn’t see me as a number.
They saw me as a person. They asked me how my grandson was doing. It
all has to do with the attitude of the doctors or nurses. Talking to
them lifted my spirit up and made me feel much better.”