A drug that shows your body how to beat cancer

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For Jason Smith it all started back in 2010 with a funny-looking mole. “For years I ignored it. I went to the doctor one day and he said, 'let’s take a look at this.'”

Following a biopsy, Jason received a call from his doctor. “He told me I had melanoma. I thought skin cancer was no big deal.” In the end, it turned out to be Stage 2 melanoma. He embarked on his first immunotherapy trial, which had mixed results.
 
 
 
A runner’s nightmare 
A few years later, there was a setback. The cancer had spread to Jason’s right lung.

His first reaction was, “Why my lung? As a runner you develop a fairly close connection to your heart and lungs, and I felt vulnerable.”

There was a flurry of appointments at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and then Jason had surgery to remove part of his lung. “It all happened very quickly, everyone was amazing.”

The recovery from lung surgery was tough. Jason could barely walk to the end of his driveway. He was given breathing exercises and he was also told to go for daily walks. “I would walk to the neighbour’s driveway and the next day I would go two driveways down. Every day I started getting stronger.”

The odds are changing 
In 2016, Jason embarked on his second immunotherapy clinical trial. He now has two small tumors in his left lung and is being treated with a different immunotherapy drug. “Both tumors have shrunk as of the last CT scan and that’s amazing.” One of his tumors is 50 per cent smaller, the other has shrunk by 30per cent. 

“This drug is showing my body how to beat the cancer,” he says, “I go to work every day, I play with my kids every night, and I’m still running.”

This past April, Jason ran the Boston Marathon while he was in the middle of treatment. “It was a fairly emotional experience for me. I was thinking what an absolute miracle it is that we’ve got this treatment that seems to be working and allowing me to get on with my life.”