Hi! I traveled to Chicago yesterday to receive another dose of ipilumumab or, as Dr. Richards calls it, "ipi" (rhymes with "hippy"). Cee Cee, who is the wife of my good friend Tony Popanz and the mother of my god-daughters Allie and Chloe, served as my chauffeur and companion for the day. The infusion was uneventful, and the only side effect I've felt so far is the need for an afternoon nap.
Some of you may wonder why the doctor would put me back on a trial medication to which I had previously shown no response. The reason is that ipi has proved to be unique in the way that patients respond to it. Unlike traditional melanoma treatments, which produce immediate results and that must be discontinued eventually because of the harm they do to the body, ipi actually builds an immune response that--in a growing number of trial patients--reveals itself gradually over a period of several months. According to a recent evaluation of melanoma trial treatments, ipi is showing a "pattern of responses that has never been seen before: some patients have slow regression of old lesions and then develop new lesions, which then shrink; some patients show a slow regression over a long period, with a partial response at 6 months; and some patients show progression of disease followed by regression."
Because these positive responses failed to materialize during the first 12 or 24 weeks of treatment, the drug manufacturers had to take patients off the ipi and out of the clinical trials. Fortunately, doctors who administer the trials noticed that many of these "failed" patients were showing disease regression long after receiving their last dose of ipi. Thanks to the diligence of these doctors, patients like me can return to the trials for continued treatment. Hopefully, ipi will prove to have even better response rates with prolonged usage.
Anyway, I won't know much about how ipi is working for me until I go back for CT scans in 12 weeks. That means I get to enjoy our lovely Wisconsin summer without thinking too much about cancer. Or so I pray.