I am a 23-year-old girl who is beating stage IV lung cancer.
Just 2 weeks after graduating from UC Berkeley, I was walking down a street in San Francisco when I received an unexpected phone call. “Corey, you have adenocarcinoma. You need to see the doctor tomorrow.” I Googled the foreign word – “The most common form of lung cancer.”
I’ve never smoked. Accepting the diagnosis was the most difficult part. Here I was in marathoner’s shape, having run a trail half marathon just two weeks before. I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on my recent study-abroad trip. Yet, the statistics were stark; a 16 percent survival rate. At the time, I thought chemotherapy was my only option and that a clear PET/CT scan would be nearly impossible to achieve.
Then I read about genomic testing and precision medicine, and I realized that this is my chance. Comprehensive genomic profiling and precision medicine together create a personalized treatment approach that targets a patient’s specific genetic cancer mutation. I loved the idea of my medicine seeking out specific cancer cells and zapping them.
My first needle biopsy had been submitted for genomic testing, but only for the two most common genomic mutations. It was another huge blow when my oncologist told me I tested negative for both. Yet, he was confident we could still find something to save me from relying on chemotherapy, so we made the decision to have surgery to remove a nodule and submit it for a comprehensive genomic profiling. When the results came back, I felt like I had hit the genomic lottery. I am ROS-1 positive, a genomic alteration that qualifies me for a targeted therapy in the form of a pill.
I take my precision medicine twice a day with few side effects and it keeps my cancer in remission. I am happily, and proudly, NED, “No Evidence of Disease.” Precision medicine has put my cancer on pause. It is the future of cancer treatment.
Sadly, most patients still do not know these breakthrough tests and therapies exist, nor is it routine for doctors to offer this lifesaving test to all patients.
Lung Cancer Foundation of America urges all lung cancer patients who find themselves in Corey’s situation to get another opinion and to request testing for genetic biomarkers that might lead to personalized treatment.