Hi! Kelly and I went to Chicago today to meet with Dr. Joseph Clark at the Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center at the Loyola Medical Center. Dr. Clark is an oncologist who specializes in melanoma, and he is involved in a clinical trial involving the antiCTLA-4 antibody. According to Dr. Clark, the antiCTLA-4 antibody is attracting a lot of attention for its potential in treating melanoma.
I don't have a full understanding of the science involved, but here's my layman's understanding of how it works: when the body detects an invader, like a virus or a cancer cell, it tells the immune system to attack it. But it cannot let the immune system run unchecked in its attack so it uses a regulatory mechanism called CTLA-4 to reign in the immune system. Scientists think the antiCTLA-4 antibody will suppress CTLA-4 thereby allowing the immune system to keep fighting the melanoma cells in full attack mode. I'm sure any scientists reading this will shudder in horror at the many errors in my description but I think my general idea is correct.
In order to be a part of Dr. Clark's antiCTLA-4 trial, I have to meet certain requirements. One is that my blood has to contain a particular antigen. And another is that I cannot have any cancer activity going on in my brain. I did a blood test today and will find out in a week or so whether I have the particular antigen. And I will have to do another MRI later in November to verify that the brain mets are under control. If I have the antigen and the brain mets are stable, I will be able to start the clinical trial after Thanksgiving. This is what I'm hoping will happen.
Fortunately, I have another option if I cannot get into the trial. Dr. Clark said there is another antiCTLA-4 trial going on at another hospital in Chicago right now. It is called a "compassionate use" study because it is open to anyone. The difference between the studies is that Dr. Clark's trial actually involves a pair of treatments (antiCTLA-4 and a melanoma vaccine) whereas the "compassionate use" study only involves antiCTLA-4.
So that's where things stand today. I feel good about my visit. I liked the atmosphere at the Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center, and Dr. Clark really impressed me with his knowledge and personality. What makes me feel best about the whole thing, however, is Dr. Legha's reaction. When I told Dr. Legha that I would be meeting with Dr. Clark to discuss an antiCTLA-4 treatment, he was very pleased and said this is definitely his first preference for my future care. His blessing gives me confidence that we're heading in the right direction and once again giving
our best shot. I am so glad he's driving this boat.
PS. Here's a link to a page with info about Dr. Clark's trial (his trial is actually just one location for a national trial) for anyone who's interested in reading technical information about it: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00094653?order=2