GRACE :: Lung Cancer

Cyramza, New Angiogenesis Inhibitor, Approved with Taxotere for Second Line NSCLC: Let’s Review Why

It may not be the biggest present lung cancer patients could get for the holiday season, but the FDA just yesterday approved Cyramza (ramucirimab), an anti-angiogenic antibody with a mechanism similar to Avastin (bevacizumab) that is already approved for gastric cancer, as a new agent to treat previously treated advanced NSCLC, any histology. This was based on the phase III randomized trial called REVEL that was presented at ASCO 2014, so let’s review the evidence that led to this approval. 

The REVEL trial randomized 1253 patients with metastatic NSCLC of any histology (i.e., including squamous) who had received prior platinum-based doublet therapy as first line treatment to receive standard Taxotere (docetaxel), the FDA-approved cornerstone of second-line therapy, with either Cyramza at 10 mg/kg once every 21 days or placebo on that same interval until significant progression or prohibitive side effects. Patients could have received Cyramza’s cousin Avastin in the first line setting, but only about 10% of patients did.

The trial was looking for a significant improvement in overall survival (OS) and was technically a positive study.  Both the median progression-free survival (PFS) and median OS improved by about 1.5 months with the addition of Cyramza. Continue reading

One Patient’s Plea on “Giving Tuesday”

Giving Tuesday Health Logo

I have lived with lung cancer since 2005. On this “Giving Tuesday,” I ask that you join me in making an end-of-year donation to an organization that truly deserves it, the Global Resource for Advancing Cancer Education (GRACE).

GRACE has had a great year of growth. It conducted three in-person patient forums this year: the ALK+ Patient Forum, the Acquired Resistance in Lung Cancer Patient Forum, and the Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Melanoma, Lung, and Kidney Cancers. I attended two of them and I can tell you that they were amazing. They gave the attendees face-to-face access to experts and the knowledge that real work is being done to help us survive our respective diseases.

GRACE 2014 events

Clockwise from left: Patients at the ALK+ Forum, ROS1 patients at the Acquired Resistance Forum, Dr. Taofeek Owonikoko filming a video for GRACE

GRACE produced and posted over 120 videos on its website in 2014. The topics covered head and neck cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer and melanoma. On top of that, they posted over 50 updates on the news blogs and fielded 700 questions and inquiries in the online forums.

GRACE intends to hold four more forums in 2015, and to continue educating patients not just in lung cancer, but in a growing number of other cancers where exciting changes are coming.

All of these efforts cost money. I think we’ll only continue to see bigger and better things from GRACE in 2015, but they could surely use your help. Please help GRACE with a generous donation today. By learning as much as we can as patients, we are able to become true participants in our own care. GRACE makes that possible.

Donate hand



Donating to GRACE is Equivalent to a Dose of Hope

This November, GRACE Honors the Empowered Patient.Linnea Duff, a 10-year stage IV ALK+ lung cancer patient, gives thanks to GRACE and urges others to do the same.

Watch, read, and then share your own stories of empowerment in our online forum. Your story may inspire others.

Donate to GRACE.

I’m in the Driver’s Seat

I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in April 2005. I was only 45 years old, I had never smoked, and I thought lung cancer wasn’t something I would ever have to worry about. Now I know that upward of 15 percent of lung cancer patients are never smokers.

Three years after my initial diagnosis, doctors discovered I had the ALK mutation. I had no idea what that meant or that I would even still be talking about it in 2014. In fact, I was seeing a psychologist to prepare for my death.

It’s Possible to Live WITH Cancer

Linnea and her son Peter

One day, I went to see my oncologist to talk about a scan. At that appointment, he told me about a clinical trial for ALK positive lung cancer patients. I was the fourth person in the world to join. That trial quickly led to the approval of a drug called crizotinib, or Xalkori – which has since kept many people alive for much longer than anyone could have expected. Today, newer drugs recently approved or expected to be approved soon for ALK patients are leading to even better outcomes.

I wish more patients would participate in clinical trials – and not because it’s for the greater good of lung cancer research. Without a doubt, clinical trials have extended my life, but just as importantly, they have empowered me as a patient. It’s right there in the description: You participate. Your feedback is essential to the process. That fact alone has made me much more involved in my treatment.

As time has gone on, my familiarity with lung cancer and my own mortality has made it all less frightening to me. Consider it: If you are in a room and you think something is in the closet but you never open that door up, you’re going to stay afraid. If you open it and look, now you know what you are or are not dealing with, and its power to surprise you has diminished.

I research my disease quite a bit. To me, it’s the difference between being a passenger or the driver in a car. If you’re the driver, you determine where you’re going. This is my life and my body. Nobody cares as much about me as much as I do.

I love my medical team. In fact, I consider my oncologist my personal hero. But once in a while I’m required to do something because it makes sense for the trial sponsor, but not so much for me and I push back. I wouldn’t have the know-how or the confidence to speak up for myself without the empowerment that comes from me sitting in the driver’s seat. 

Lung cancer is a very difficult disease – not just because it has a high mortality rate and is hard to treat. It’s also misunderstood in a lot of ways and comes with a lot of stigma attached to it. Invariably if somebody hears I have lung cancer, they will ask me if I smoked, which is, if you think about it, kind of an awkward question. It seems to imply that perhaps I did something to deserve my disease. 

I also think the stigma impacts people’s generosity as far as charitable donations go. Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer and yet it remains incredibly underfunded. Recognizing Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November is super important for this reason.


It’s Possible to Live WITH Cancer

This November, GRACE Honors the Empowered Patient.November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. To mark it this year, GRACE is celebrating the empowered lung cancer patient. In this video, Linnea Duff, a 10-year stage IV ALK+ lung cancer patient, shares her journey from stunned patient to empowered patient.

Watch, read, and then share your own stories of empowerment in our online forum. Your story may inspire others.

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