- Stage III pancreatic cancer diagnosis
- A clinical trial combines FOLFIRINOX and blood pressure medication
- Tumor shrinks so I can have a Whipple
In late 2015 I started having low-grade abdominal discomfort that radiated to my lower back.
After a visit to my doctor, I underwent extensive testing with blood tests, CT scans, and finally an endoscopic ultrasound. In March 2016 I received a diagnosis: stage III pancreatic cancer. The tumor was located next to an important blood vessel.
Treatment on a Clinical Trial
At the time of my diagnosis I was directing the fundraising for the Mass General Cancer Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, so I was very familiar with the doctors there. Oncologist Dr. David Ryan and radiation oncologist Dr. Theodore Hong had me join a clinical trial that used the combination drug FOLFIRINOX plus losartan, an older blood pressure medication. Losartan has properties that soften the hard outer surface of pancreatic tumors, allowing the FOLFIRINOX to penetrate the tumor and destroy it. I had six months of chemotherapy, followed by proton beam radiation. Although the FOLFIRINOX is a very strong chemotherapy, I was able to manage the side effects. I was fatigued, and had no appetite, but I did not experience nausea.
The treatments shrunk the tumor and I finally had Whipple surgery on September 16, 2016 at Mass General with Dr. Carlos Fernandez-del Castillo. I recovered fairly easily and did not have any treatment after surgery.
It has been five years since my treatment, and I remain in remission. Life has been back to normal for nearly as long a time, although I have to take Creon pancreatic enzymes with snacks and meals.
My oncologists believe the losartan contributed to the effectiveness of the FOLFIRINOX and saved my life. I have had CT scans every six months for the last almost five years. My next scan is scheduled for September; it is unclear as to whether or not I will have annual scans after that.
I am glad to say that life is good!