Cancer breakthrough brings hope to 5-time cancer survivor


A potential breakthrough for cancer treatment brings hope to many patients. Two drugs that are often used separately in immunotherapy are being combined. Studies show it stops the development of skin cancer in 58 percent of the cases.

Immunotherapy is promising, but researchers caution the drug combination can have serious side effects. It is still in the early stages of research, and is not replacing current treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

Cyndi Ashmun, a Quad City cancer survivor, finds this new study hopeful. She has battled cancer five different times since she was 28 years old.

Ashmun survived breast cancer three times, lung cancer and ovarian cancer.

“It doesn’t get any easier, it doesn’t get less scary,” said Ashmun.

In her 32 years of surviving cancer, Ashmun said, “I have seen firsthand the changes that have come with research with advances in cancer.” She believes the new immunotherapy study brings hope to all cancer patients out there.

“If they can hone in better treatment options, things that can give a person the best shot that they have going forward, wouldn’t that be wonderful?” said Ashmun.

Dr. George Kovach is a cancer specialist with Genesis Health System. He has been treating patients for 38 years and says the immunotherapy breakthrough is a significant impact. “Very promising – it’s a big advance,” said Dr. Kovach, “We are looking at people who have almost a year without progression of disease. It’s wide open for any solid tumor, I mean cancer like breast cancer, kidney cancer, so on.”

Like any other treatment, Dr. Kovach says it doesn’t come without side effects, including diarrhea, liver damage, kidney damage, skin lesions, and other significant side effects.

Depending on the patient, side effects may be worth it if it treats the cancer. Dr. Kovach says even patients that stopped the treatment early from side effects saw a positive response.

Dr. Kovach said, “The benefit of being able to control the disease and doubling survival is what people are looking for.”

For five-time cancer survivor, Cyndi Ashmun, she feels hopeful, “A cure in my lifetime – if I live to be 100, I don’t know, but better treatment? Absolutely.”

More information:

Gilda’s Club, a cancer support community in the Quad Cities, will be hosting a program for immunotherapy cancer treatment on July 23. The time is not set, but here is a link to their website for updates.

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