Lung Cancer Patient Sees Tumors Halved Through Immunotherapy

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Tish Vigna knew something was very wrong. While out on a run with her dog, she had chest pains. She struggled to get home. When she did, she called an ambulance.  

In hospital, staff checked to see if a heart attack was to blame. Instead, they found a mass on Vigna's left lung. Within days, Vigna, a non-smoker, learned she had Stage 3 lung cancer.

"It was surreal," says Vigna, recalling the diagnosis she received at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in March 2013.

 
 
New Options for Patients

Vigna underwent six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation and after that, surgery – yet her cancer endured. More chemotherapy and radiation followed. A follow-up appointment in January found the cancer had spread to her right lung in three locations.

Surgery wasn’t an option. But her doctor hoped to get Vigna into an international immunotherapy clinical trial. She ended up being among a handful of Princess Margaret patients who were admitted. 

Vigna was then put on a drug designed to stimulate an immune response.

'Hope for Everybody'

"Within three months, the three tumors had been reduced by 50 per cent in size," says Vigna, "and those tumours haven't grown any bigger in the two and a half years that have passed since then."

For Vigna, immunotherapy treatments will continue for the foreseeable future. That's okay with her. She and her family are simply grateful she could participate in the trial.

Her experience so far with immunotherapy has left her optimistic about what the future of cancer treatment holds for patients like her. "We are going somewhere in science... and there's hope for everybody out there," she says.

She's also optimistic about her own future. 

"I am extremely confident about what the future holds for myself and others!" Vigna says.