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A Physician Speaks about Immunotherapy

January 6, 2016

Jeffrey Fisher, MD, a pathologist and principal at friendMD, speaks about the choices he and his wife, Liz, made regarding her treatment. Liz was diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer in 2011.

Q: How did you learn about immunotherapy options?

Dr. Fisher: When my wife had a recurrence 19 months after finishing her first round of chemotherapy, I did research and discovered other options besides another round of chemo. I was aware of immunotherapy becoming an attractive option to treat ovarian and other cancers and discovered the autologous vaccine clinical trial at University of Pennsylvania.

Although my wife was ultimately excluded from that trial because of post-op complications, we eventually found our way to an integrative oncology practice overseas where the vaccine was prepared from her stored tumor tissue.

Q: Her tumor tissue had been previously stored at the time of her surgery?

Dr. Fisher: Yes, cancer treatment for all tumor types is evolving rapidly, and many of the newer treatments will require viably stored tumor, so it would be foolish to NOT store a tumor. Even though some hospitals may say they store it, they do not do so viably nor do they allow the patient to have access to it – preservation and storage needs to be done with a company that specializes in this technology.

Q: Many patients say their oncologists don’t discuss tumor storage with them. Is this common?

Dr. Fisher: Of course their physicians SHOULD initiate the discussion but, if not, it is incumbent upon the patient to bring up the topic. If their physician discourages them, they should probe as to why.  The only possible reason would be cost but that is up to the patient to decide, not the physician. My wife would not have had this opportunity if we had not stored her tumor tissue.

Q: Are cancer vaccines risky?

Dr. Fisher: All treatments should be evaluated on a risk/benefit ratio. There is essentially zero risk in administering an autologous vaccine, so there can be only benefit.

Q: How is Liz doing now?

Dr. Fisher:  She is doing great!—no side effects, either local or systemic. The oncologist said that changes in her MRI and CA-125 are consistent with a positive immune response.  We couldn’t be more thrilled!

For more information, Dr. Fisher can be reached through his website at www.friendMD.net.

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