Jeff Ticehurst was 58 years old and in pretty good health when he started losing weight and his red blood cell count dropped. His rheumatologist suspected it was a side effect of his arthritis treatment, however, after further testing something much more frightening was revealed.
An endoscopy determined that Jeff had a tumor in his small intestine near the stomach. His physician described it as, “the most unusual growth,” she had ever seen. The preliminary diagnosis was lymphoma, but the biopsy came back negative. Jeff was then referred to an oncologist for a more thorough exam.
“He was quite blunt,” said Jeff. It was Stage IV gastric cancer of the small intestine, known as adenocarcinoma. The disease had spread to his liver, lymph nodes and chest. The oncologist painted a bleak scenario- surgery and radiation were not options, chemotherapy might be, but probably with little success. “He basically advised me to go home and pack it in,” said Jeff.
“Needless to say, the diagnosis was terrifying, so the first thing I did was get my finances in order, including will, trust and insurance; and advise my wife regarding our affairs.”
Jeff first learned about Robert Nagourney, MD, from a friend of his wife. “His protocol of assay-testing cancer tissue for sensitivity to a multitude of chemotherapy options before treatment made tremendous sense to me,” said Jeff. It made sense to have knowledge beforehand as to the effectiveness of various treatments.
Dr. Nagourney reviewed the results of the endoscopy with Jeff. “He advised me that my cancer was very serious and needed immediate attention.” Dr. Nagourney scheduled a PET scan, with orders to receive the results by the next day. He recommended removing some of the tumor in the small intestine and advised Jeff that surgery was needed to save my life.
An extensive 5 ½ hour surgery was performed to remove the gallbladder, small intestine and some of the liver. The tissue was then sent to Dr. Nagourney, and his team at Rational Therapeutics, for chemosensitivity testing (EVA-PCD®). The assay found that many of the standard chemotherapies would have been ineffective in killing Jeff’s cancer. However, the study showed that his tumor was very sensitive to epidermal growth factor inhibitors and combined with a mix of two additional chemotherapies the treatment, appeared to be very effective.
After recovering from surgery, Jeff began treatment with the three drug combination. His tumor marker levels decreased substantially and a PET scan showed “marked tumor regression,” which proved the treatment a success! “I am only a few months into treatment and the long-term outcome for me is unknown, but there is now some room for optimism,” said Jeff. “My health is improving and all signs are moving in the right direction.”