In February 2013, I was told that I had about 18 months to live because my kidney cancer had spread throughout my body. After seeking out a second
opinion at The University of Texas MD
Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, I started
receiving nivolumab (Opdivo) through a clinical
trial. There is now no evidence of cancer in my
body, and I’m looking for ward to enjoying life,
building a new company, and traveling the world
with my wife.
My journey with kidney cancer began in
July 2012 when my wife insisted that I go to
the doctor. I had been really tired and lethargic
for a while, sleeping the weekends away, and
my blood pressure had risen dramatically. But
the deciding factor for my wife was when I saw
blood in my urine.
During the exam, the doctor felt around my
abdomen and said, “That’s not supposed to be
there.” He went on to explain to my wife and
me that I had a large mass on my kidney and I
needed a C T scan immediately. I was in shock,
even more so when the scan confirmed I had
kidney cancer. This all happened on a Monday.
That Friday, I had surgery here in Memphis,
and the surgeon removed my right kidney and
a 3.8-pound tumor.
Tests showed that the tumor was a type of
kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma.
This finding led my oncologist to start me on
pazopanib (Votrient). Despite this, after I had
recovered from surgery, I felt pretty good and
went back to work.
Then, in November 2012, a routine follow-up
scan showed that the cancer had spread, and
there was a tumor wrapped around my adrenal
gland. We scheduled a second surgery but had
to put it off after I developed a blood clot in my
lung. I spent 5 days in the hospital over the New
Year being treated with blood thinners.
Once the blood clot had been treated, I was
able to schedule the surgery again. By this time,
it was February 2013. When I woke up from the
operation, all the surgeon would say was, “We
will talk later.” I knew things were not good. It
turned out that he hadn’t been able to remove
the tumor because it had spread throughout my
abdomen. It was not just on my adrenal gland
but also wrapped around my vena cava [the
large blood vessel that carries blood back to the
heart] and in my liver.
At this point, my health was deteriorating
rapidly. I was losing weight and feeling extremely
lethargic. I was down to just 190 pounds and
could barely get around by myself.
It looked as if chemotherapy was my only
option, but it offered me no hope. So my wife
and I decided we would get a second opinion and
went to the University of Texas MD Anderson
Cancer Center in Houston. The doctor there, Dr.
Tannir, confirmed that surgery was not an option
for me but told us about a clinical trial testing a
new drug that would turn on my immune system
to fight the cancer. This ne w information gave us
some hope, and I had no hesitation in enrolling
in the nivolumab clinical trial.
I started receiving nivolumab in March 2013
and was treated every 2 weeks. Within a month
or so, I began feeling better. I was less tired, I
could feel myself getting stronger, and I started
gaining weight. After the first 3 months, scans
showed that the tumors had reduced by 30
percent. This news lifted my spirit. My spirit has
lifted even more with every scan since, because
each one showed that the tumors were shrinking
more and more.
Currently, there is no evidence of disease,
just a little scar tissue in my liver, which I will
have surgically removed in the near future. I
am so healthy that 3 years after I started taking
nivolumab, Dr. Tannir decided that I do not
need to take it anymore.
I’m living proof that immunotherapy works,
and I can’t stress enough how much the research
funding that led to drugs like nivolumab means
to me. Nivolumab gave me hope again. I can live
life and see the future.
PHILIP PRICHARD \\ AGE 51 \\ MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE
THANKS TO NIVOLUMAB