My name is Pam Griffith and I live in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, with my husband Randy and our adorable miniature dachshund, Lilly. In March of 2013, I underwent a lobectomy for removal of a mass located in my lower right lung. I was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma with sarcomatoid cells, which is a rare combination of non-small cell lung cancer. I was treated by a local oncologist with chemotherapy drugs, cisplatin and etopside, plus radiation five days a week for seven weeks.
During this period of time I experienced severe nausea and dehydration. Visible signs began to appear that the chemotherapy was not working: a lesion popped up on the back of my head, a lump appeared on my left shoulder blade and a bulge stuck out on the right side of my neck. My husband and I became convinced that my survival depended on switching to a large cancer research center that specializes in lung cancer.
We turned to Dr. Scott Antonia at Moffitt Cancer Center for help in September of 2013. The CT scan showed the cancer had spread throughout my body and I had stage 4 lung cancer. Dr. Antonia said to us, "We can no longer hope to cure you." That was absolutely devastating news. Then he offered us hope when he recommended an ongoing immunotherapy clinical trial that was taking place at Moffitt. I was accepted and enrolled in phase 3 of the clinical trial for Opdivo ( nivolumab ) made by Bristol/Meyers Squibb. The treatment proved to be a blessing to my body. We watched in amazement as the large lesion on back of my head began to shrink and simply fell off. The lump on my shoulder blade and bulge on my neck disappeared. CT scans revealed that tumors throughout my body were shrinking or disappearing entirely.
I stayed on Opdivo for nearly two years and continue to receive follow up CT scans every four months. In the spring of 2016 the CT scan showed renewed growth of a tumor on my left adrenal gland and I underwent stereotactic radiation to target and eliminate the tumor. Dr. Jessica Frakes and the entire radiation team were very kind and professional.
Then, in April 2017 my CT scan showed the tumor was growing again. The decision was made to surgically remove it. Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez performed the surgery. During surgery Dr. Gonzalez noticed a small dot on my stomach and removed it as well. He noted that he was able to get clear margins at both sites. That small dot turned out to be a stromal tumor, which is a rare type of gastrointestinal cancer. Dr. Gonzalez and his staff are truly amazing.
My husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last year and know without a doubt that I would not be alive today if we had not sought treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center. We thank Dr. Antonia and all of our Moffitt angels for making our dream come true.
Immunotherapy drugs are proving to be real game changers in winning the fight against lung cancer, and other cancers as well. Moffitt is one of the most experienced and respected institutions in this field. Please continue to give your generous support to fund the development of these lifesaving immunotherapies.
The LATTE Program would like to thank Pam for submitting such a wonderful story and wishes Pam and Randy a Happy 50th Anniversary!