I think my brain is a very good pharmacy for my body.
By age 42, Luc Vautmans had built a very nice life for himself. He was married with three kids and had a great job working as an aeronautical engineer for both NASA and the European Space Agency. Then, without warning, cancer threatened to take that all away. In September 2013, Luc went to a doctor for a swollen lymph node in his neck. The doctor diagnosed him with stage 4 melanoma. CT scans showed that his body was riddled with tumors.
Facing a grim prognosis, Luc decided to enroll in a clinical trial of two immunotherapy drugs called ipilimumab (Yervoy®) and nivolumab, being conducted at University Hospital in Leuven in collaboration with Bristol Myers-Squibb. These drugs fall into a class of immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors. By “taking the brakes off” T cells, they enable a more powerful immune response against cancer.
While he has embraced immunotherapy, Luc has also created a “very big bucket list,” to make the most of however much time he has left. In the 7 months since he was first diagnosed, Luc has been skydiving, skiing, paragliding, sailing, and motorbike racing. As if that weren’t enough activity, Luc also decided to turn his battle with cancer into a life-saving opportunity for others. On May 4, 2014, Luc and his daughter Ran, 13, participated in the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour to raise money for the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). All told, Luc and Ran raised more than $11,000 for cancer immunotherapy research.
TheAnswertoCancer (TheA2C) spoke to Luc about his daredevil pursuits and his experience with the cancer immunotherapy clinical trial.
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