Two new clinical trials for kidney cancer are available at Lehigh Valley Health Network through its partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, giving patients options for experimental treatment and participation in research that advances kidney cancer treatment.
The immunotherapy trials test combinations of drugs that cut off blood supply to tumor cells and help the immune system find and fight cancer cells.
A decade ago, late-stage kidney cancer patients had a small chance of living past a year after diagnosis, said Dr. Suresh Nair, medical director of LVHN Cancer Institute.
“The amount of progress that’s happened in the year is staggering,” he said. “Kidney cancer has probably progressed the most among all the cancer areas in the past year.”
On Thursday, about 30 patients made it to their second annual celebration of advancements in kidney cancer treatment. The event, which was sponsored by the Andy Derr Foundation for Kidney Cancer Research and hosted by LVHN and Memorial Sloan Kettering at Lehigh Country Club, also featured a talk by leading kidney cancer doctor and researcher Dr. Robert Motzer, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Kidney cancer research had a major breakthrough in 2006, when a Pfizer drug sunitinib won approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Motzer said. The drug cut off blood flow to tumors and prolonged life for late-stage kidney cancer patients.
Since then, survival rates continue to climb due to new generations of sunitinib, including one used by LVHN doctors called cabozantinib, and advancements in immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system to fight cancer.
But there’s a lot more progress to be made.
“That’s why efforts like your own are so important,” Motzer said at LVHN’s event. “That’s what gets the work done.”
Every year, more than 37,000 men and 21,000 women get kidney and renal pelvis cancers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 13,000 die.
LVHN offers six clinical trials for kidney cancers, including the two newest.
New treatments give patients such as Lackawanna County resident Arlene Townsend a second chance at life. She’s participating in an LVHN immunotherapy trial launched last year.
Before her diagnosis, Townsend, 38, was easily irritated and didn’t have any passion for her job or life.
“It use to be get up, go to work, come home, make dinner,” she said. “It was kind of just going through the motions.”
She had to develop a positive attitude to cope with the physical and emotional toll of her late-stage kidney cancer, which had spread to her bones, lung and the lymph nodes around the heart in 2016, she said. Since her diagnosis, she found a passion for refurbishing furniture, let go of her cynicism and found happiness in life’s small moments.
“If I’m driving — it sounds silly — I notice the clouds,” she said.
“You don’t realize how many great things you have in your life until you think you’re not going to have them anymore.”
The change was so apparent that her husband noticed.
“He thinks I’m much happier,” she said.
Lehigh Valley Health Network and Memorial Sloan Kettering have partnered to bring new cancer treatments to the Lehigh Valley.
What is a clinical trial: A study involving patients who volunteer to receive new medications or treatments under evaluation.
Who may participate: Criteria are unique to each trial but often are based on age, gender, health and medical history. They are designed for participants most like those who will eventually receive the new drugs.
Source: Lehigh Valley Health Network
More information: At lvhn.org, search “clinical trials.”