Bill Smith had experienced no symptoms when he came in for a routine preoperative physical in 2010. However, his primary care physician noticed a problem, ordered a chest x-ray and referred him to a pulmonary specialist at Cleveland Clinic's main campus. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
A full body scan also found two tumors on Bill’s brain. He had gamma knife brain surgery, followed by a chemotherapy regimen to attack his cancer. Then a cancerous tumor was found on his liver, followed by severe shoulder pain which meant the cancer had metastasized to his bone.
In all, Bill had two gamma knife brain surgeries and orthopedic surgery to remove part of his humerus bone below his shoulder. He was put on seven different chemotherapy medications that resulted in fatigue and loss of energy.
“The chemo beat me up to where I really wasn’t able to do much,” says Bill, who retired as a practicing lawyer during his treatments.
Bill told his team of physicians from Cleveland Clinic's Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center, Lilyana Angelov, MD and Samuel Chao, MD that the chemotherapy was more than he could take. Seeking an alternative, Bill’s doctors recommended he meet with Nathan Pennell, MD, PhD in Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Center, who specialized in clinical trials using novel therapies. Dr. Pennel could perform genomic testing to determine if any medications could be specifically tailored to treat Bill’s cancers.
The immunotherapy quickly changed the quality of Bill’s life.
“It’s like a new day. You can actually feel the difference in your life and in what’s taking place in your body.”
“It’s the best thing that could have happened,” says Bill. “All of a sudden your life is changed because you actually feel like you’re living again.”
Bill currently has immunotherapy treatments every two weeks, with no radiation or chemotherapy treatments.
“It seems to have everything under control. All the tumors have shrunk,” says Bill. “It’s like a new day. You can actually feel the difference in your life and in what’s taking place in your body.
“There’s a partnership with the caregivers at Cleveland Clinic,” says Bill, who has scheduled talks with his physician simply to talk through his situation.
“There is a family of care environment that a patient can feel,” Bill says.
If he had to tell a friend about Cleveland Clinic, Bill says he would let them know that they are “going to find somebody who can reach you...who can help you."
“It was good for me to have that person so that my level of comfort was increased,” he says. “That’s exactly why I am beating cancer right now.”
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center,