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Cancer History Lesson

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  • Cancer History Lesson

    In honor of those that came before us, I wanted to share this story from a clinical research publication. May the day come when Dr. E's vision for a cure is realized, and may people like Danny Aurit be able to share success like this with those patients to come.

    Cancer Survivor Goes for the Gold

    John and Judy Cleland and their children, Chris, Cecilia and Brice, celebrated the 25th anniversary of John's successful treatment with the then-experimental drug, cisplatin. John Cleland of Indianapolis has run four marathons, but the race he is proudest to have won was against testicular cancer. Diagnosed in 1973 at 22 years of age, Cleland, then a newly married, Purdue University undergraduate, underwent surgical removal of his testicle and 53 lymph nodes. Three punishing rounds of chemotherapy followed. But when Cleland’s cancer spread to his lungs, the optimism that had buoyed the Indiana native through nearly a year of treatment began to wane. He wondered what the future would hold.

    “At that point I weighed 105 pounds, I had no hair on my body, and the sores in my mouth were so bad I couldn’t swallow,” Cleland recalls. “My doctor, Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, called me into his office and said, ‘John, I don’t think you’re going to make it. I don’t think you’re going to survive.’ ” Mind racing, heart pounding, Cleland tried to focus as Einhorn offered one last option.

    “He said, ‘There is one other thing we can try,’ ” Cleland recalls. “ ‘You can be one of the very first people to try a new chemotherapy.’ ” Even though Cleland had studied science in college, he knew nothing about clinical research, and today, the 56-year-old teacher admits if you’d asked him at the time what a clinical trial was, he wouldn’t have been able to answer. What Cleland did know, however, was that the experimental treatment Einhorn was proposing held a chance for survival so he grabbed it.

    Nothing to lose
    “I knew I could die or I could do something else,” Cleland says. “After thinking for five or ten minutes about what I could expect, I decided I didn’t have anything to lose.”
    On October 7, 1974, Cleland began receiving daily injections of the experimental drug, cisplatin. With just two other people enrolled in the trial before him, Cleland did not know what to expect. When he developed a severe reaction to the treatment just two weeks later, neither he nor Einhorn was surprised.

    “I’d already been beaten pretty badly and it was more of the same in a lot of ways,” the high school biology teacher and cross-country coach recalls. Severe vomiting, high fever, and painful mouth and throat sores had plagued Cleland throughout his cancer treatments. But this time there was one big difference. Cleland’s lungs were clear. The radiologist who read his chest x-ray was so stunned, he had to verify he’d read the right person’s film. When Einhorn arrived to give his patient the news, he smiled broadly and said, ‘John, we think you’re going to make it.’

    That was more than 30 years ago, and since that time, Cleland has lived a remarkably healthy, happy life. He and his wife, Judy, have three children, and in 2002, the former competitive runner proudly carried the Olympic torch through the streets of Indianapolis. The experimental drug, cisplatin, is now a formidable weapon in the fight against many forms of cancer, and Cleland’s oncologist, Lawrence Einhorn, MD, a Distinguished Professor in the Indiana University School of Medicine, has become perhaps best known for his successful treatment of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Einhorn continues to search for a cure for testicular cancer.
    Cleland advises other prospective clinical research volunteers to do their homework and be willing to take a chance. “I had to put complete trust in the medical personnel that were treating me so I took things on blind faith but that’s not the case today,” he counsels. “With the Internet and that type of thing, it’s easier to do research than it was back then. Read. Ask questions. And don’t be afraid to try things based on sound science.”

    John Cleland will speak about his experience as a clinical research participant at Aware for All-Indiana on Saturday, November 3, 2007. His oncologist, Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, will facilitate the Patient Panel. To find out more about this and other Aware for All programs, email [email protected] or call 1-888-CISCRP-3.
    Stage III Non-Seminoma- 7/11/06
    Right I/O 7/12/06
    Completed 4x BEP 11/06
    Bi-Lateral RPLND (Dr. Shenifeld)- 11/27/06
    Surveillance since then

    When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.
    Lance Armstrong.

  • #2
    I so love reading about the pioneers of chemo....they risked so much and helped so many. Clinical trials are crucial to the prognosis for the next generation. Also great to have the guys diagnosed in the 70s and 80s joining gives a lot of hope.
    Retired moderator. Husband, left I/O 16Dec2005, stage I seminoma with elevated b-HCG, no LVI, RTx15 (25Gy). All clear ever since.


    • #3

      thanks for the interesting read. the people that have gone on before should always be held in high regard for what they have done. i thank them as well as the docters that pioneer the field of cancer. dr einhorn in particular for what he has done in the field of testicular cancer and the science of chemo.

      thanks to all

      severe back pain ( found to be tumor rpgct) no pain/irregularities with twins at all
      diagnosed 11-15-06 stage 3c mets to lungs/shortness of breath, choriocarcinoma, hcg 212,000
      11-16-06 1st of 4 rnds. in patient bep
      2-07 1st of 3 rnds. in patient salvage tip
      met dr. einhorn 4-17-07 ultra-sound (1st one)
      5-10-07 left i/o (immature teratoma)
      7-12-07 rplnd (dr.foster)
      8-16-07 all-clear and in surveillance mode
      started TRT...androgel 12-5-08
      fight the good can win


      • #4
        It really is amazing how far treatment for TC has come. I have a colleague who went through treatment in the late 1970's. Almost two years of incredibly toxic drugs. He was left permanently sterile. But otherwise has not had any secondary problems.

        I feel very lucky that I didn't need chemo for my TC1 in 1988.
        Right I/O 4/22/1988
        RPLND 6/20/1988
        Left I/O 9/17/2003

        Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will; to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


        • #5

          Thank you for sharing that incredibly inspiring story.

          I see that Danny's HCG went down by half after his first course of the experimental chemo he is getting.

          I know everyone is watching this very closely.

          I think that Danny's story is so inspiring it is book/movie material. I hope that doesnt sound offensive to anyone.
          It's just that the love between Michael and Danny, and the incredible fighting spirit we see in Danny is so moving, it reaches right in and touches the heart and soul in a very profound way.

          I'm just blown away by them-

          Thanks so much for sharing that, Boyce


          Son Anthony DX 12/11/06
          L/O 12/20/06 Stage IIIA, 95% EC, 5% Yolk Sac
          4XEP 1/29-4/6/ 07
          AFP started increasing3 wks later
          Residual abdominal mass found on CT
          RPLND 6/8/07
          Cancer in pathology-
          80% mature teratoma, 20% Yolk Sac. --
          No adjuvent chemo and
          AFP normalised

          July 22, 2010 ---- 3 years all clear!