There’s More Than One Way to Treat Cancer

In an Article from, we meet John Ryan, retired nuclear reactor specialist who worked for the military when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Now in remission he might have some good news for cancer patients looking for more treatment options.

Ryan is being treated for his cancer at the Johns Hopkins cancer unit in Baltimore Maryland. The treatment he is receiving is called immunotherapy, which has been effective for Ryan, although it does not work on most patients.

The go-to cancer treatment is chemotherapy. This therapy works by administering toxins meant to kill rampant tumors into the body. The problem with this method is that the toxins used also attack the healthy tissue of the cancer patient. As a result unpleasant side effect are suffered, including pain, weakness, and nausea. Patients lose weight. Their hair falls out. From illness to treatment, cancer is a incredibly challenging thing to endure.

The pharmaceutical industry has started pumping a lot of money into the study and development of the field of immunotherapy, which is a promising turn for John, who just turned 74.

When initially diagnosed with his cancer, the doctors gave him 18 months to live. Since then, he has watched three of his children graduate from their respective endeavors, and plans to attend his daughter’s wedding over the summer. Despite the treatments success, Ryan acknowledges that is a simple battle won, not a war.

“In five years, I have lost a lot of dear friends.”

Ryan experienced chemotherapy in his own right in 2013 with his first bought of treatment for his lung cancer. It failed to subdue his tumor and left him in a critically weak state. As a last chance effort to save his life, Ryan was allowed into a clinical trial using immunotherapy. Nivolumab, or Opdivo, was administered as treatment.

In late 2013, Ryan began taking nivolumab intravenously at the hospital every two weeks. Eventually this dropped down to once a month. 104 injections later, Ryans tumor had disappeared,and his main side effect was itching.

Immunotherapy trains the body’s T-cells, which are the cells meant to find and attack threats such as mutated cancer cells. The cancer cells would otherwise be hidden from the T-cells, but with the help of immunotherapy, the T-cells can find and attack the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy has the potential to blow the lid off cancer treatment, but previously disappointed experts advise caution when it comes to the promise of miracle cures.  Upwards of 30 immunotherapy drugs are being developed, with 800 clinical trials being conducted. There is a lot of money and attention being devoted to the study of immunotherapy, but the results will show what they will. It is too early for immunotherapy to stake its dominance over chemotherapy as a mainstream treatment just yet.

What are your thoughts on John Ryan’s story? Share your stories, thoughts, and hopes with the Patient Worthy community!


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