A Metastatic Cancer Survivor’s Experience with Immunotherapy
Prevention & Treatment In 2012, a seizure took hold of the left side of my body and led experts to diagnose me with a rare form of cancer.
I was 38, the mother of two beautiful young children, when my life changed. After the seizure, a trip to A&E revealed metastatic cancer in my brain, liver kidneys, lungs, pancreas and uterus. I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called placental site trophoblastic disease.
I started emergency chemotherapy and then a group of drugs called EMA/Co, but soon switched to EMA/EP, which I tolerated better. By February 2013 I was in remission, but sadly, in October, a lump was found on my top rib. The next approach was high-dose chemo and double stem cell transplant, which works for most reoccurrences. But in October 2014, Hcg (a tumor marker) was detected again.
A part of my left lung was removed, but the cancer was still there. This time it was in the liver. I started a horrid five-day treatment called GemTIP, but it didn't work.
“I had nothing to lose and everything to live for.”
A novel approach
My oncologist, Professor Michael Seckl at Charing Cross Hospital in London, believed a new treatment called immunotherapy could work for me. He said that a drug called Keytruda (pembrolizumab), by Merck, looked promising.
He explained that my cancer was made up of both my and my husband’s DNA, and during pregnancy the immune system shouldn’t attack the foreign DNA. He said that we needed the immunotherapy to “wake up my immune system and reject the foreign DNA.”
There was a long list of side effects that came along with this treatment, but the other treatments had them as well, and I had tolerated most of them fairly well.
I decided that my body was still strong and I didn’t have any other complications. I had nothing to lose and everything to live for. I agreed to the treatment with the help of the Harris and Trotter Charitable Trust Fund to pay for the treatment, not yet funded by the NHS.
I had no side effects, no extra medication like anti-nausea or steroids were needed and it lasted only 30 minutes, each time. After the third dose, as of June 2015, I was back in remission.
I’ve been there ever since.