I just received my sixth and what should be my final dose of Yervoy. Let me take a step back and tell you what I've been up to. I met with Dr Lynn Schuchter in Philadelphia about two weeks ago which turned out to be very informative. Dr Schuchter works at UPENN and is the study coordinator for Plexxikon's Vemurafenib, or PLX4032 as I used to reference it on this blog. She has been working with Melanoma patients for many years, and is probably one of the leading and most recognized names in Melanoma research in the world.
As it turns out, Dr Schuchter was extremely pleased with my Yervoy pretreatment and has been timing our plan in a way that I was still able to receive this final dose before switching over to Vemurafenib.
Much like how I had been granted access to Yervoy, Vemurafenib is now in a phase 4 open access compassionate use trial setting. This means that I nor my insurance company will be paying for it, but it also means that I have to qualify for this new trial. There are three things that are happening now as prerequisite to my trial admission. I am scheduled to receive a brain MRI this morning and chest CT next week. Also my melanoma block was transferred from Frederick Memorial Hospital to Plexxikon so that they can re-run the BRAF studies to ensure that I am in fact a match for their drug.
One reason that I've been dragging my feet with this drug is that you hear so many times the story of great success and regression followed by a period of relapse and even more aggressive tumor growth. This still scares me. What is different now is that while the relapse might still occur when new "pathways" open up and trigger the cancer to start rapidly multiplying once again -- there are now other drugs in the pipeline that are beginning to target these other pathways. This remission period has been know to be anywhee from 3 to 13 months on average. There are some subjects who have been in complete remission for well over two years and are still going strong.
When you combine the the fact that my tumors have always been of the slow growing type, I've managed to change my entire life style and eating habits, I've now been pretreated with six doses of Yervoy which has trained my body to look for and fight Melanoma -- I actually like my odds moving into this round of drug treatment. The side effects are low, the promise of releif is huge -- it's all about the duration. If I could get another 13 months (or more) of pain free living -- I'm game.