Cancer News

This week I had 5 doctor visits and an MRI.  My surgeons, pleased (and amazed) with my progress, discussed plans for the future.  While sticking with the "standard of care" (the octreotide injections every 4 weeks), we know it will not prevent the metastatic tumors in my liver from coming back.  Since they are slow-growing, though, and since I do not have symptoms of carcinoid syndrome right now, there is not a rush to try the more aggressive targeted therapies yet. Good news: one of the primary blood markers for tumor activity has been dropping since surgery and is now in the normal range.  In addition, I've regained most of my weight since February.  I'm walking 2-4 miles a day and eating healthy food.  This should help my immune system fight the tumors. On Friday I had an MRI to try to get a better glimpse at how many tumors remain. 

City of Hope continues to be a world leader in cancer research.  A friend from Sunday School contracted another kind of cancer and is getting good treatment there.  Another friend showed me an article from CBS Los Angelesthat sounds too good to be true: a discovery at City of Hope that might not only cure cancer, but obesity as well!  (Obesity is not my problem.)  Another report from The Independent described another miracle cure being considered. In addition, a Phase III trial at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is testing the efficacy of Lutetium-177 radioisotope therapy on neuroendocrine tumors like mine; this treatment has been shown effective in Europe.  Often hopeful treatments that work on mice turn out to have serious side effects when tried on humans, but one of my surgeons said we know much more now than we did 10-20 years ago and fewer mistakes are being made.  The question for me is whether one of these targeted therapies will become available in time for me.  Only my primary care Physician (the Lord Jesus Christ) knows for sure.

Scary thought: one of my surgeons said that on the day of surgery I was probably as little as a day away from complete bowel obstruction from the primary tumor pressing on my small intestine.  The Lord brought me to the right doctors at the right time; otherwise I could have died in February.  Praise God; I am so thankful to be given this extension of time, and need your prayers that I will use it wisely.

I've owed my readers some news for over two months now.  SInce I have been silent on this blog, some have worried if everything is OK.  The short answer is, yes!  I am recovering well.  The picture above was taken June 19 of me jumping off a 60' cliff called "Skydiver Leap" into a deep pool in Havasupai Canyon (a tributary of the Grand Canyon).  It was my ninth time there (first time in 1988).  On this expedition I carried a pack 20 miles and hiked an additional 15 miles on a great trip with over a dozen young adults, one of whom I was able to lead to Christ one night at Havasu Falls.

Just prior to that trip I had a good 3-day camping jaunt up the California coast with a friend from Australia, another hiking buddy and two nephews.  These were my first chances to get away since surgery.  I'm posting photos from these trips on my Flickr page over time: see them here-- http://www.flickr.com/photos/psa104/ .  One coastal photo caught the eyes of over 3,000 viewers.

Mooney Falls is a 200-footer
Cancer Update

I'm feeling strong, walking 2-4 miles a day and eating healthy food.  Though I'm not out of the woods, I've recovered remarkably well so far, thanks to the prayers of many people and the grace of God.  Just 3.5 months ago I was helpless in a hospital bed, and now look!  When my oncologist saw these pictures of me hiking, doing handstands and cliff diving, she said it made her day! 

I'm on long-term treatment with octreotide, a chemical that mimics a natural enzyme with receptors for the tumor cells in my liver.  It's supposed to shrink the tumors, or at least inhibit them from growing.  In late May, I had to inject myself three times a day for two weeks.  Now, every 4 weeks I get a shot in the gluteal muscles that makes me sore for about a day, but then I feel fine.

Neuroendocrine tumors, like those embedded in my liver, are usually slow-growing.  The octreotide is probably just buying time until more targeted therapies become FDA approved.  Some of them look very promising.  One available already follows the octreotide to the tumors with a radioactive isotope payload that can kill the tumor cells without harming healthy tissue.  A better isotope is now undergoing a Phase III trial at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The most interesting targeted therapies are the T-cell immunotherapies and oncolytic viruses. The T-cell therapy trains your own immune system to fight the tumors.  The oncolythic virus therapy uses a custom virus that finds the tumor cell and kills it, releasing copies that attack nearby tumor cells.  A test of this virus at the University of Uppsala in Sweden has proven effective in mice.  Researchers are seeking funds to begin Phase I trials in humans.  Unfortunately, these "miracle cures" are years away.  We should pray that they become available soon, not just for me, but for many others suffering from cancer.

In mid-July I will be meeting with my surgeons at City of Hope to learn about treatment options.  Most likely they will recommend staying the course with octreotide for now.  You can continue to pray that it will be effective, and buy me as much time as God's perfect will requires for me to work, and that I will use my time wisely.