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How Immunotherapy is Reshaping Cancer Patient Survivorship Experiences

Breakthroughs in immunotherapy have led to longer lasting treatments, and even cures, for many different types of cancer. Many cancer patients who participated in early immunotherapy clinical trials have become patient pioneers. They have lived far beyond the limited prognoses their oncologists initially gave them and entered an unexplored, and largely untold, realm of the cancer survivorship experience.

In this webinar for patients and caregivers, three CRI ImmunoAdvocates discuss redefining and navigating their lives after immunotherapy. Guest moderator Kristin Kleinhofer (leukemia) speaks to Gordon Levine (colorectal cancer) and Sunshine Pegues (lung cancer) about their unique cancer survivorship experiences, including the management of long-term side effects, continued self-advocacy and self-education, and their long-lasting relationships with their health care teams.

In August 2010, Kristin Kleinhofer was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and began a two-year journey of inpatient, intense chemotherapy that ultimately failed to keep her in remission. By February 2014, the cancer was back and Kristin's family sought clinical trial options. At the recommendation of her doctor, she enrolled in phase 1 clinical trial of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. She was one of the first patients to receive this therapy in an outpatient setting and was among the 93 percent of patients in her trial that achieved remission. 

In November 2014, Gordon Levine learned that he had a malignant tumor in his colon and underwent surgery and chemotherapy over the next four years. In early 2018, the cancer came back again and metastatic. He enrolled in a clinical trial that treatment showed early promise, but CT scans later that year indicated tumor growth and his participation was terminated. Genetic testing indicated that Gordon might respond to treatment with a combination of the immunotherapies nivolumab (Opdivo®) and ipilimumab (Yervoy®). After three rounds of treatment in a new clinical trial, a CT scan showed substantial reduction in the cancer. 

In 2011, Sunshine Pegues was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. Standard treatment at the time was chemotherapy followed by 35 days of radiation, which burned the skin on her neck and left her in more pain and skeptical about the advice of her health care team. She moved back to her hometown, Seattle, where she enrolled in two clinical trials. The second trial tested nivolumab (Opdivo), an anti-PD-1 immunotherapy, which stopped her cancer from progressing and eventually, caused it to become inactive. 

The “Cancer Immunotherapy and You” webinar series is produced by the Cancer Research Institute and is hosted by our senior science writer, Arthur N. Brodsky, Ph.D. The 2021 series is made possible with generous support from Bristol Myers Squibb and Alkermes.

Browse our Cancer Immunotherapy and You Webinar Series playlist on YouTube or visit the Webinars page on our website to see other webinars in this series.

Bristol Myers Squibb


*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.