Virginia Filipan was only 58 years old when she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. After losing her two sisters, brother and husband to cancer, she thought the logical thing would be to start planning her last few months. However, Virginia met Robert Nagourney, MD, medical director at Rational Therapeutics, and he had a different plan.
It all started with a lingering cough and a bad case of bronchitis just after Christmas 2005. When the prescribed antibiotics were making Virginia worse, her physician ordered a chest X-ray. He saw something suspicious; a subsequent PET scan confirmed his fear, Virginia had lung cancer that spread to her bones.
Like many others diagnosed with lung cancer, Virginia was not a smoker. She worked in a night club and believes exposure to secondhand smoke may have been the cause.
As Virginia began to research her treatment options she kept hearing about Dr. Robert Nagourney. Dr. Nagourney and his staff at Rational Therapeutics use chemosensitivity testing to determine which drug or combination of drugs will most effectively treat a patient’s specific cancer. By exposing each patient’s cancer cells to different chemotherapies, the "assay" tailors treatment to his/her unique profile of sensitivity and resistance, therefore improving outcomes.
“We need to be thinking outside the box to get good, meaningful advances,” says Dr. Nagourney. “If you administer the right medication to the right patient, you get a good response.”
From the results of her assay, Dr. Nagourney prescribed a once-a-day chemotherapy drug that Virginia has been on ever since. "Today, everyone tells me I’m a walking miracle,” she said.
>> After being diagnosed in January of 2006 with metastatic lung cancer, Virginia lived a full and active life, eventually succumbing to her disease in October of 2013. Her family continues to host an annual fundraiser to raise money for the Vanguard Cancer Foundation and Dr. Nagourney’s research. >>