Thursday has come and gone and the results are in. Now we have some facts ... and a little speculation too.
As I mentioned in my last post, the challenge for the doctors at this stage is that I am only six weeks into treatment, which is really early for immunotherapy. The doctor explained that when they first started to treat cancer this way, they would send patients for scans every month, similar to the protocol for chemotherapy. What they realized is that because immunotherapy works differently as compared to chemo, they were scanning too often. In fact, it is very typical to see tumors grow or become inflamed a month or two into immunotherapy. This can mislead doctors and patients into believing that the treatment isn't working. However, they have found that it generally takes three months before positive changes are visible in scans during immunotherapy treatment. The only reason I had these scans so early is because of the clinical trial, which requires more frequent checks.
Anyway, now to the (very initial) results. As expected, there has been some growth in the tumors, but the doctor (the Guru Oncologist was out of town this week so I saw another doctor in his practice) said that things look like they have stabilized since my last scans. This means that the tumors did not grow as fast or proliferate as significantly has they did between my scans in August and September. Good news. Stable, slower growth, whether the treatment is working or not, is obviously preferable to aggressive and spreading tumors.
In addition, the amount of growth that has occurred since my last scans is very small (e.g., 2mm in a couple of the tumors in my chest and lungs). The doctor said she thought this *could* be attributable to inflammation in the tumors, not actual tumor growth, because my t-cells are starting to attack the tumors. If this is the case, there is cause for cautious optimism that the treatment is starting to work.
The other piece of good news is that my brain tumor does not appear to have grown at all. When the Guru Oncologist is back next week we'll talk with him about whether or not to move ahead with zapping this tumor now or waiting a bit longer to give the immunotherapy more time to work. Needless to say I was relieved to hear this tumor isn't growing ... besides my liver, it is the one that stresses me out the most.
I left the doctor's office feeling neither good nor bad about the scan results. They seemed to be just more facts in this process, but maybe because they didn't provide us with anything definite or conclusive, my mind was dismissing them as such. Now that I have had a couple of days to process all of this, I am feeling slightly more positive. The doctor did say that there is cause for cautious optimism. Who am I to second guess her? And, an added benefit is that believing the treatment might be working helps me cope with the side effects, including a recent uptick in nausea.
So onward we go. Two more treatments, including one this week, will come before the next scans in six weeks. Until then I plan to be very cautiously slightly optimistic that this is going to work.