Lung cancer patient grateful for lifesaving clinical trial at Karmanos

Some identifying personal details have been changed.

At 54, Ron Andrews was leading an active and healthy life when he received an unexpected diagnosis that would change his world.

Although he had been a smoker for many years, Andrews had successfully kicked the habit. After six months of being smoke-free, he began experiencing inexplicable wheezing that would not go away. He visited his primary care physician and discovered that paying attention to a seemingly small symptom, such as wheezing, could be life-saving.

Andrews was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He sought cancer care at a Detroit hospital and was given a grim prognosis of only six months to live. Seeking multiple options, he also contacted Karmanos Cancer Institute at the recommendation of a family member.

When Andrews came in for his appointment at Karmanos, he met with medical oncologist Misako Nagasaka, M.D., and the Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Team. This care team took a different approach to his lung cancer and immediately put a care plan into action.

“Karmanos actually had a personalized plan for my cancer. Dr. Nagasaka took the time to explain how she thought I should be treated and shared the success stories from individuals with similar diagnoses as my type of lung cancer,” Andrews said.

From his first appointment, he knew he was going to begin treatment at Karmanos. Andrews felt hopeful with a plan in place. He started with two types of chemotherapy and later began immunotherapy.

“At Karmanos, everyone was nice and considerate and were able to answer every question I could possibly have,” Andrews said.

While he was in the early stages of treatment for his lung cancer, Andrews’ wife participated in another important form of care. She joined the caregiver support group at Karmanos’ Lawrence and Idell Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington. Having a program designed specifically to support caregivers allows Karmanos clinicians and staff another way to help patients by making sure the needs of their caregivers are also met.

In the fall of 2019, one of Andrews’ tumors stopped responding to the immunotherapy treatment, so when the opportunity arose to enroll in a clinical trial, he was eager to participate. As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center, Karmanos is a national leader in clinical trials. These critical developments create new knowledge about cancer-fighting therapies.

“Participating in a clinical trial is like entering into murky waters. You don’t know what you are jumping into until you are in there,” he said.

Despite his initial trepidation, Andrews realized that this clinical trial could be the life-saving answer he was looking for. At Karmanos, clinical trials offer hope and longer life to patients with all types of cancer. Despite Andrews’ initial prognosis from an alternate facility, he is now thriving thanks to the innovative treatment options.

“Ultimately, I just trusted my doctor, who knows more than I do. I took Dr. Nagasaka’s word for every decision we made,” Andrews said. “If there’s any advice I would give to other lung cancer patients, it is to find a doctor you trust and go with their plans.”

Andrews continues to visit Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit for his chemotherapy without fear and with great confidence in the medical staff at Karmanos.

Patients with a history of smoking may be eligible for lung cancer screening. In the fight against cancer, early detection is an important weapon since cancer is most treatable in its early stages. Many forms of cancer do not display symptoms at their onset, so screening tests are used to monitor for warning signs. Screening for lung cancer is a multi-step process. It begins with an office visit to assess needs and risks. Eligible candidates will then undergo low-dose CT scans. These scans are more sensitive than x-rays and can detect abnormalities in the lungs. Scans are then read by a Karmanos radiologist.

With early detection, positive screening results can lead to positive outcomes. Please call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) to speak with a trusted oncology patient navigator who can help you determine which tests are right for you.

Misako Nagasaka, M.D.