I finished my last session of radiation today and overall the experience wasn’t too bad. The fatigue that started in week 1 persisted, but it was minimal. I thought I would get away nearly scot free in terms of side effects, but toward the end of last week I began experiencing heartburn; imagine a sunburn to your esophagus. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), that has been the worst side effect. I guess it could have been worse.
I’ve been doing a lot of research about lung cancer since my initial diagnosis. It’s a field in medicine that has grown rapidly in the past decade. Treatments that exist today did not exist a few years ago. Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment option in the world of cancer that stimulates your immune system to fight the cancer by targeting certain proteins (PD-1 and PD-L1). In the past couple of years, they have seen great promise in using immunotherapy to treat cancer in patients who have high concentrations of these proteins. The only downside is that the medications are administered intravenously and the medications are still very new so they have yet to be proven.
Another new treatment modality is called targeted therapy. What’s exciting about this type of treatment is that they target cancer cells with minimal side effects and medication is generally administered orally, unlike chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for these “miracle drugs”. The tumor has to express certain molecules in order for the medications to work and only a small portion (<30%) of patients who have lung cancer have these molecules on their tumor.
For the past month we’ve been anxiously awaiting the results of the molecular profiling to determine if I have any of the mutations. I found out on Friday that the tumor I have expresses increased amounts (~70%) of PD-L1 so I could potentially be a candidate for immunotherapy. This could be good, but is still administered via IV. Today, I finally received the rest of the results and I found out I tested positive for one of the mutations treatable by targeted therapy. My tumor was ALK positive!
We’re meeting with oncologists over the next week to find the best facilities for treatment and determine the optimal treatment plan. Wish me luck!