When Janie Ferling learned that a lump in her neck was malignant melanoma that required immediate surgery, her world turned upside-down. She was determined to do whatever it took to be around as long as possible for her son.
Following surgery, treatment with interferon (an older and aggressive form of immunotherapy) did not keep Janie’s cancer at bay. Tumors appeared in her brain and again on her neck, and her hopes for surviving began to dim. Despite being told there were no more treatments available for her, Janie refused to give up hope. She searched for clinical trials for several months, and finally found a trial for which she was eligible at UCLA School of Medicine, led by Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D., a CRI-funded investigator specializing in immunotherapy for melanoma.
Janie enrolled in the study, which was testing a new treatment that combines two immunotherapies: the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) and an oncolytic virus therapy called T-Vec (Imlygic®), both of which received FDA approval as single-agent therapies in melanoma.
Initially, Janie’s tumors continued to grow despite treatment, but she decided to remain on the trial. Then, six months later, her tumors began to disappear.
Today, Janie is in the follow-up stages of her clinical trial. She continues to have scans and dermatology appointments every six months, but by all accounts, appears to be in remission. She is back to living her life and continues to enjoy travel, skiing, and visiting friends. Although her son is now grown and flown, memories continue to be made. In 2019, Janie attended her son’s college graduation, a milestone she didn’t think she would see.