Promising cancer clinical trial underway at UConn Health Neag Cancer Center

FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) – A collapsed lung led to a diagnosis of lung cancer.

Still, it took several months before lifelong smoker Michel Gueret finally stopped smoking.

“I never thought I could quit,” He explains.

But radiation and chemotherapy couldn’t keep the cancer from spreading.

Dr. Jeffrey Wasser points to a scan, “We have a large tumor mass involving the lower lobe of the right lung.”

Michel says, “My breathing was very shallow, I was underweight.”

With few options left, Michel took part in a Phase I clinical trial at the UConn Health Neag Cancer Center, testing the safety and efficacy of combining two immunotherapy drugs for a handful of cancers including head/neck and ovarian.

“I was very tired,” says Michel, “but no real physical side effects.”

“The concept of immunotherapy is clearly a breakthrough,” says Dr. Wasser, the lead investigator of the study, now in its second phase.

The drugs unmask cancer cells that are able to hide from the immune system.

Dr. Wasser says, “Using these drugs that we have, we are able to remove that invisibility cloak so that our own body’s immune system can attack these tumors.”

More than a year after, Michel’s cancer has taken a dramatic turn.

“Most recent scan show a large area of scar tissue”

However, there is a small area of interest.

“We’re keeping an eye on this,” says Dr. Wasser. “We have a sense that this is a scar tissue, based on other scans and other imaging.”

Michel says, “From somebody who was huffing and puffing to walk from one side of the house to the other, I can go up and down the stairs twice, and barely be affected.”

“Patients in this case are real heroes by stepping up to the plate,” says Dr. Wasser. “In some cases they benefit. In other cases, society may benefit from the knowledge that we glean from these trials.”

Minor side affects of the drug combination included a rash, fatigue and joint pain.

Patients with more severe side affects could develop complications such as diabetes and kidney disease.

Dr. Wasser says Michel will be on the drugs until they are no longer effective.

If that occurs, he is confident there will be other medications available.

For more information contact the Neag Cancer Center’s clinical trials at UConn Health at 860-692-8455.

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