This article from The Times describes the remarkable drug that I’ve been taking for my (very rare) form of cancer – GIST, or Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumour.
Fortunately for me, I’m in the sub-group with the KIT gene that the article says does particularly well on imatinib. My experience was that I was originally diagnosed almost three years ago with a massive tumour (26cm x 19cm) wrapped around my stomach. That was considered too big for surgery, and this particular form of tumour does not respond to either radiation or conventional chemotherapy, so I was put onto imatinib to reduce its size.
All I did was take one tablet daily with my breakfast. Some patients experience a range of nasty side -effects, but I was lucky: side-effects were minimal, with very little impact on my daily life. Regular 3-monthly scans immediately showed that the drug was having the desired effect, with definite shrinkage. However, there came a point where shrinkage ceased, with the tumour down to 19cm x 15cm: still big, but much more manageable. At that point, surgery was scheduled for February last year (2016).
Following surgery, I continue to take the drug, now to guard against regrowth. Every six months, I have a CT scan to check that indeed there is none. The last, in April, still showed all clear. The next scan will be in October – when I hope, that will still be the message.
Drug turns cancer from deadly disease to manageable illness
Cancer could become a manageable chronic disease like HIV for many patients, according to scientists running a drug trial.
Researchers found that a drug for advanced cancers of the gut and stomach kept a large minority of patients alive and mostly symptom-free for at least ten years after the start of the trial.
Experts said the “remarkable” discovery was a foretaste of a future in which people diagnosed with aggressive tumours that would once have been a death sentence may be able to resume their old lives for many years.
Since the turn of the millennium doctors have widely adopted a new class of chemotherapy known as targeted drugs, which attack a particular gene or protein that is known to be essential for the cancer’s development.
However, these medicines tend to be costly and usually extend the lives of patients by only a matter of months as the tumours mutate to resist their effects.
Full report: The Times & The Sunday Times
One year on from GIST surgery: (1) Diagnosis and early treatment
One year on from GIST surgery: (2) Surgery