Immunotherapy

27-Learning new words about Cancer

30th January 2021

As they say - 'you're never too old to learn'.

And it's true. I’ve learned a new word: Scanxiety - which describes ‘the apprehension felt by people with cancer as they wait for their next scan’.

This came about by doing too much of what I shouldn’t - which is hunting around the interweb trying to find information, about things of which only give me an incomplete picture as to what's likely to happen.

Let me back up a bit. My first full scan, post treatment was done last September – and that was a very anxious wait to find out the results.

Good and bad was the outcome of that scan. Good that the throat tumour has diminished – bad that metastatic (secondary cancer) tumours had been found in a couple of locations.

They weren’t deemed ready for treatment then, but another scan was scheduled for January 2021 to see if there’s any further development.

And there is.

No matter that I try and not worry about what I can’t influence, but waiting for that next scan and the outcome, is never ever far from my thoughts. Every day.

That is definitely Scanxiety.

And so I was ever so glad to have my January PET/CT scan and the subsequent appointment to discuss the results. The scan indicates a third tumour showing in my right lung and the original two in the same lung are still developing.

It wasn’t a great shock and I’m now back under the care of my oncologist – the excellent Dr Warren Grant. He phoned me the other day to get my thoughts and to update me on his thinking.

As ever with me, it’s not yet clear-cut. I will be starting treatment again, but right now it’s not definite when, or with what. By this I mean the choice will be either Chemotherapy or the much newer Immunotherapy treatment.

This is another new word for me. Immunotherapy ' which uses substances to stimulate my own body immune system to fight the cancer'. I suppose it's too much to wish these will be ganja-type substances, but one can hope - eh?

The decision depends partly on whether my cancer would be receptive to Immunotherapy and also on the overall effect of how my body will respond to either of the drugs.

That – and the schedule for treatment will become clearer on my next appointment with Dr Grant in mid-February.

But for now, I’ll end on a lighter note because I just received my first Covid vaccination jab. I’m in ‘group 4’ because of my condition and treatments.

No surprise that Gloucestershire NHS have it well sorted. Very quick and slick at the vaccination centre and no pain either.

Although I’m sure I heard the nurse whisper under her breath that I’d just feel a little prick.

Not a new experience for Wozzer… 😊

33 – Testing, testing…

31st March 2022

Wow, how time flies.

Looking back through my blog – it’s exactly 2 years to the day that I went to my local hospital with a bit of a sore throat. Mind you – it’s not a date I’d ever forget anyway!

I find it interesting to look back at the phases – from the shock of initial diagnosis in 2020, through the aggressive radiotherapy and recovery, to the ‘living with cancer’ phase of 2021 and now the palliative treatment phase due in 2022.

I have to say that right now, the issues are far more mental than physical.

Outwardly I look fine and generally feel okay – well, apart from breathlessness and a nagging back pain. Both are the result of the Tom, Dick and Harry tumours. They were stunted in growth when given a good zapping of radiotherapy a few months ago, but the little bastards are telling me that they’re finding a way to recover and annoy me further.

Inwardly though, it’s becoming more of a constant daily, hourly reminder that all is not well with me. While I try and only worry about things I can control, rather than things I can’t – this is for sure becoming more difficult with a poor prognosis and a generally uncertain future.

Still – as we all seem to say these days, it is what it is 😉

On the diagnostic front, there’s been a fair bit happening in these past couple of months or, but no firm decisions right now on the best way forward.

What we do know is that 2022 will see more treatments, just to relieve and hopefully slow the development of the current lung tumours and of course, any further spread to other organs.

And I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with the choices that might be coming my way.

It could be chemotherapy or immunotherapy or a combination of both or indeed, experimental trials.

I’ve started the pre-screening for a clinical trial involving a new type of vaccine combined with an immunotherapy drug. It sounds quite exciting, but of course there’s a few ‘buts’

It’s quite experimental, known as a ‘phase 2’ trial.
This means it’s got past a small sample of patients (generally with very advanced cancer) in a Phase 1 trial.

Phase 2 trials generally aim to find out:

  • if the new treatment works well enough to be tested in a larger phase 3 trial
  • which types of cancer the treatment works for
  • more about side effects and how to manage them
  • more about the best dose to give

This particular trial is being tested on around 190 volunteer patients in 10 countries.

It’s known as a ‘double-blind, randomised’ trial to test this new type of vaccine treatment combined with an immunotherapy drug that’s been used in the past for a similar type of cancer to mine.

The randomised bit is that 50% of the patients get the real vaccine and 50% get a placebo vaccine. All patients do get the immunotherapy drug though.

The double-blind bit is that neither the patient or the people delivering the treatment, know (or certainly won’t say) who is receiving the vaccine and who is receiving the placebo.

So all in all, this is really about the drug companies testing product combinations for possible future wide-scale treatments, using the latest ideas around. For the patient, it’s a gamble as to whether there’s any additional benefits – and by this, I mean survival time against more shall we say, the more conventional types of chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Although, this trial might just be the ‘miracle cure’ that the world has been waiting for!

I’ll be discussing all my options during April with both the clinical trial team in Somerset and my own Dr Wozzer here in Gloucestershire. Pretty sure one way or the other, I’ll be having treatment before the summer.

Immunotherapy is definitely the hot subject in the oncology world right now. I’ll research and then write up some more on this, hopefully next week.

Until then – take care x