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Maribel Ramos

Breast Cancer

Maribel’s Story

In November 2015, Maribel Ramos received her fourth cancer diagnosis: stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer. 

After her previous experiences with chemotherapy and radiation, she was interested in exploring a new treatment option.

At her sister’s recommendation and with the support of her primary oncology care team at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Maribel enrolled in an immunotherapy clinical trial at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone testing atezolizumab (TECNETRIQ).

The treatment worked and now over five years later, she is happy, healthy, and cancer-free. 

Questions and Answers

How and when did you first learn you had cancer?

I’ve had cancer four times. The first time was in 2003. I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. One year later, I had a recurrence.  

Ten years later, in 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.  

The most recent time was in November 2015. I went for a regular checkup at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The doctors saw something in the MRI and ordered a PET scan and a biopsy. That is when they found out I had triple-negative stage 4 breast cancer.  

How did you learn about immunotherapy and why did you decide to do it?

At first, the doctors told me that my best option was to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Because I was treated before with chemotherapy and radiation, I really did not want to go through that treatment again. So, I decided to look for a different option. 

My sister, who is a nurse, talked to me about new research at NYU Langone. It was a clinical trial with immunotherapy.

At first, I was not sure if I was going to enroll in the clinical trial. I asked my medical team at Memorial Sloan Kettering for their opinion. They told me that after plenty of consultations between professionals, the best option was to go to NYU and enroll in that trial. Their support was important to me and helped me to make the decision.

After two months on the immunotherapy trial, a PET scan showed that the tumor was shrinking. The tumor kept getting smaller and smaller with every PET scan.

It’s amazing because five years ago, I never thought I’d be here today.

What was treatment like? Did you have any side effects?

For the first two years, I was treated with chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy. I experienced some side effects from the chemotherapy like muscle pain and headaches.  

In the third year, the medical team decided to continue with just immunotherapy and the side effects were very mild. I was able to exercise again.   

Are there things that surprise you about the cancer experience?

What surprised me was the type of breast cancer: triple-negative. I had read that it was really tough to treat and the prognosis was poor. I was scared. It was a difficult time. 

What would you want another patient to know about immunotherapy or about participating in a clinical trial?

I’d want to let other cancer patients know that sometimes we need to take risks. I know it’s hard, but don’t be scared. Trust the doctors, choose the medicine, advocate for yourself.   

If you feel you need a second opinion, go for it. Always go for a second opinion.   

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