When Pam Griffith, 65, was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in March 2013, her doctors told her that it was aggressive but treatable. With surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, she would likely be fine. But that summer, Pam and her husband, Randy, knew that something was wrong. Pam had begun to develop strange lumps in her neck and on the back on her head. A CT scan performed on August 23, 2013, showed that the cancer had spread to both lungs and her adrenal glands. Pam had progressed from stage 3 to stage 4.
At that point, Pam’s oncologist, Scott J. Antonia, M.D., Ph.D., of Moffitt Hospital in Tampa, FL, recommended that she consider entering a clinical trial of a new immunotherapy drug called nivolumab, made by Bristol Myers-Squibb. Nivolumab belongs to a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, which block the “braking system” on T cells. The particular checkpoint that nivolumab targets is called PD-1. By “taking the brakes off” of T cells, nivolumab enables a stronger immune system response against cancer.
A happily retired real estate agent, with two children and six grandchildren, Pam knew that she wanted to fight the cancer in any way she could. The Answer to Cancer (TheA2C) spoke with Pam about her enrollment in the clinical trial and her experience with nivolumab.