CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Another big stride has been made right here in Cleveland in the battle against cancer. Instead of chemotherapy or radiation, immunotherapy is proving to be a lifesaver for some patients.
One Carrollton, Ohio man, Frank Evanosky, is a prime example.
The new drug would give him a future to look forward to that he and his wife feared they'd never see.
"I go around smiling and joking all the time. It just completely changed my life," said Evanosky.
The 63-year-old lifelong labor worker, and his wife, Cindy, an accountant, married for 40 years do everything together. They smile big talking about the day they met at the Carroll County fair.
But, they also can't forget the day their world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer.
"At that time I didn't know anything about kidney cancer. I never heard the words kidney cancer," said Evanosky.
He was given a year and a half to live.
The cancer, with few early warning signs, already spread to other organs like his lungs with severe pain just setting in.
"I just didn't want to think about it so I just assumed somehow it was going to work out," said Cindy Evanosky.
That's when their 100-mile treks to the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Institute every three weeks would begin.
Researchers hard at work would come up with the drug called Opdivo just in time and Frank would be the perfect candidate to put in a trial.
"It's very important for them to know there's other things out there so what it means is there's an effective new treatment out there," said Dr. Brian Rini, Cleveland Clinic oncologist.
He was with Frank from the very beginning, not knowing for sure what to expect.
The treatment looks like chemotherapy, Frank is hooked up to an IV and the Opdivo drip.
Dr. Rini explains though the drug is different from chemo in the fact that it basically revs up the immune system to do its job better, target and attack infections.
With that Frank sits comfortably and in unusually good spirits in his patient room, with Cindy at his side letting the treatment do his job.
He says the first few months doing this he noticed no difference. But, then one morning he woke up pain free. His next scan would be the moment of truth,
"I felt wonderful, I still remember when the nurse first walked in the room and she said your tumors are shrinking. I was like oh God," he said.
Not long after that his tests would show him cancer free.
Dr. Rini warned though, "I think patients need to know not every drug is going to work for every patient, not every drug is suitable for every patient."
For Frank, for example, there have been no side effects, just a little fatigue the next day, but he said he knows of at least one other in the trial who got very sick. He added though, she was also cured.
So just as much as Frank is grateful this drug did work for him, holding his wife's hands, he said he's also grateful to be part of research that could mean so much to so many others, too.
The next step for him then is to decide when it's safe to stop the treatments. He thinks that will be soon. Already, there's talk about when the next vacation will be, when they can officially pick up where they left off nearly 5 years.
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