Baptist Health lung cancer trial showing improvement for Jacksonville resident
April 15, 2015 | Jacksonville, FL
After almost five months of chemotherapy and radiation, the news was not good for Ken Cooper. His lung cancer was growing and he was running out of options.
But his hematologist oncologist, Troy H. Guthrie, Jr., MD, had a new lung cancer research trial starting and Cooper was a perfect candidate. His cancer had spread from his lungs to his lymph nodes and right chest wall.
One of the first in the international immunotherapy cancer trial, Cooper of Jacksonville was ready to start the infusions of nivolumab, which has previously shown benefits in people with melanoma. Now five months later as the twice a month infusions continue at Baptist Oncology Specialists, Cooper’s cancer has shrunk more than half in size and is no longer metabolically active, according to Dr. Guthrie.
Based on early positive results of the trial at locations throughout the world, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of nivolumab, also known as Opdivo, to treat patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.
“This drug enables the body’s immune system to recognize the cancer as foreign and attacks it,” said Dr. Guthrie, who along with medical oncologist Robert A. Zaiden, MD, both with Baptist Oncology Specialists, is involved in the trial, the only location in Northeast Florida. “This is a major development. For a significant portion of patients, almost 40,000 a year, this might be a potential new drug.”
Cooper, who has been involved in prison ministries for more than 25 years, believes faith and nivolumab are why he has seen positive results.
“It’s amazing really,” Cooper said. “I believe particularly with a disease like cancer that if you remain positive and expect to get well, your chances are much better than if you give up. I also believe in the body healing itself and wanted to see what this immunotherapy could do.”
Cooper, who is still involved in a housing ministry that provides rehabilitation for men who have been in prison, has remained active including ministering in prison every month. “God has more work for me to do. He’s using faith and this drug to empower me to do more,” Cooper said.
While this trial is closed for new participants, Baptist has other cancer trials, including for lung cancer, which are accepting patients. For more information, contact Baptist Oncology Specialists at 904.202.7300.