This is still the blog of The Hill Family but with a new name and a new look! We decided the blog needed a new, simpler look and while we were at it, decided to change the name (URL) as well. But don’t worry if you are already subscribed to get updates via Email or RSS you do not have to do anything! you will continue to get updates just as you have before. Also this does NOT mean that our email addresses have changed. Our email addresses are still at micah77.org.
As we enter a new phase of post-treatment waiting we came across Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NIV). We find this to be especially powerful in times of waiting. Also 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you”.
So what is it that we’re waiting for? Well news! As you may know, after about 10 days of receiving my TIL cells, a severe toxcisity developed in my liver. It was very clear that the newly infused, genetically modified cells were the cause, but why? Basically some of the best doctors in the world told us, “Well dude, we just don’t know.” But it was getting so bad they decided they needed to remove and/or kill my newly infused cells ASAP or I would only live about 3 more days. But they weren’t sure if they could do it. After all this was not part of the plan, the cells were only supposed to generate an immune response, not have a frat-party in a major organ! But, praise God, through more chemo and a process called plasmapheresis, they were able to kill/remove the newly infused cells. This in combination with massive amounts of steroids (to calm down my liver), they were able to save my life. But if they reversed the treatment, what does that mean for the cancer?
Good question. The data (in mice) shows that having the TIL IL-12 modified cells for 10 days is a sufficient amount of time to generate a positive response. So what do we mean by “response”? In melanoma there are basically 3 categories of response.
- Stable Disease – This means that your immune system is able to “hold” the cancer where it currently is and not let it get any worse. Also called “progression free survival”
- Positive Response – This means scan results showing 30% regression or more (tumors are 30% smaller than they were on previous scans).
- NED (the holy grail) – This means that scan results don’t show any cancer at all. Note: this is not the same as remission: it take about 2 billion cells to show up on a scan there may be very small deposits of cancer that are undetectable on scans.
So where am I now? My first set of scans (7/15/13) shows “Stable Disease” meaning no progression since the scans done immediately before treatment. This was to be expected because my body is still recovering and most likely not really able to mount a response just yet. But my next set of scans (8/14/13) will be the real determining set. These will show either 1, 2 or 3 above. So until then we aim to “Be still, and know that I am God”.