Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients Who Have Failed Previous Therapies Now Have New Hope — the First in 20 Years

By Sara Bondell - August 26, 2018

Frank Steed calls it a miracle.

Diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in 2013, Steed has undergone five grueling rounds of chemotherapy and radiation that left him underweight and exhausted. About a year into treatment, he says he was out of options.

“I had four doctors tell me I wouldn’t last six months,” said Steed. “One told me just 90 days.”

That’s when Steed found Moffitt Cancer Center and a clinical trial for an immunotherapy drug called nivolumab, better known as Opdivo®, that was already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat bladder cancer.

Immunotherapy drugs such as Opdivo activate a patient’s immune system to fight cancer by blocking the activity of a molecule called PD-1, a protein that prevents T cells from recognizing cancer cells. Opdivo allows your T cells to go to work, destroying cancer.

“This has been a life-changing event,” said Steed. “I felt like there was hope for the first time that I would kick cancer’s butt.”

And right now, he is.

After starting the trial, Steed’s tumor stopped growing then eventually started shrinking. Today, the tumor is gone. He says the treatment had no major side effects, and for the first time in years, he is able to maintain a steady weight.

Because of the success of the drug in patients like Steed, the FDA has expanded its approval. Opdivo is now available for patients with small cell lung cancer whose disease progressed following two or more previous therapies. It is the first treatment to be approved for the disease in nearly 20 years.

Steed hopes the therapy can now be a miracle for others.

“Frankly if there was no Opdivo, if there was no Moffitt, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

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