To mark National Cancer Survivors Month this year, ICRF is pleased to launch this special column from the perspective of cancer survivor and new ICRF Board member Linnea Olson.
My name is Linnea and I have
stage IV lung cancer
. Diagnosed at the age of 45 in 2005, I quickly exhausted conventional treatments.
Three years after diagnosis I was advised that I had three to five months to live.
And then a remarkable thing happened.
A biopsy revealed a newly identified oncogene, and by chance a phase I clinical trial had just opened at the very hospital where I received my treatment. My oncologist told me that one other person had enrolled, but had quickly died, in part because of side effects of the experimental therapeutic.
I was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. My cancer was going to kill me, but the trial was for a targeted therapy. Targeted therapy? Sounded promising. I felt a faint glimmer of hope. Maybe I could extend my life for several months. I just hoped the trial drug wouldn’t hasten my demise.
I chose to participate and after qualifying, became the 4th person in the world with non small lung cancer to take an ALK inhibitor. Within a matter of days the symptoms of my lung cancer began to subside. At my scan review seven weeks later, my oncologist was literally beaming as he pulled up my before and after scans. My cancer had seemingly melted away.
However, I was cautioned that this did not represent a cure. Honestly, what mattered to me was that I had been given another chance.
Twelve years and three more first--in--human trials later, I am still here. My three children are all adults now, and I have reveled in the chance to watch them grow.
I have also become a vocal advocate/activist for clinical trials. Medical research is my lifeline but given my extensive boots on the ground experience, I am also acutely aware of ways in which clinical research could be made more compassionate and user friendly, boosting patient participation in the process.
Of course, we now have a fresh challenge as we face the COVID-19 pandemic together.
Between the necessity of social isolation and the diversion of resources, clinical trials are being placed on hold while dollars for cancer research shrivel.
But cancer is relentless, never shelters in place. More than ever, we need to support the basic science and translational research that yields the promising therapies that will keep our pipelines full and provide hope and a chance to endure for millions of cancer patients.
Israel Cancer Research Fund is committed to weathering this storm.
In every crisis there is opportunity. Even as I work to streamline and enhance the clinical trial process, there is an opportunity right now to help secure the future of Israel’s cancer research.
Cancer is pernicious but it is no match for the human desire to live or, I hope, a generous heart.
Please support Israel’s brilliant, life extending cancer research. My life depends on it. Maybe, one day, yours will too.