Melanie Smith: colorectal cancer, her story and treatment
Joel: My name is Joel Smith. This is my wife Melanie. We met in 1999.
Melanie: I was diagnosed in 2002 and they did a resection on me and they found out I had stage 4 colon cancer.
Joel: And she had another recurrence in her ovaries, and then she had an abdominal hysterectomy.
Melanie: I’ve had a lot of surgeries done and a lot of chemotherapy. You know, different ones that they tried to put me on and it would last for a little while, like a month or two and then I would get scans again and then you know, I would come back.
Joel: In 2009 we switched doctors.
Melanie: Because when I went to my offices he told me that he didn’t have anything more for me and that he would have to put me on the drugs that he previously gave me, you know, “there’s no more,” he said, “you know, no more drugs that I can give you.” Now with all the doctors that I have now, you know, Dr Erlich has brought me so much hope. Because when I, in 2008 I didn’t know what was going to happen.
Dr Erlich: So when she came to me she had exhausted all the standard lines of therapy for colorectal cancer. She weighed 75 pounds and obviously she was a hospice patient. I was even reluctant to do anything at that time, but she showed me that she was not ready to quit, mentally she was not ready for a hospice, and she was looking for some hope.
Joel: Dr Erlich recommended tumour profiling. The testing found that she had a rare form of colon cancer that had markers that were associated more with breast cancer. As well as some markers that were associated with kidney cancer.
Dr Erlich: I started this patient on a combination of lapatinib and trastuzumab, drugs that are used as standard agents for HER2 positive breast cancer.
Joel: So, there’s that two drug combination that basically attacks this one protein, that the Caris lab came up with, and here’s what we discovered. That all those years that she’s been going through all kinds of different chemos and radiations and surgeries, that they were looking at the wrong type of cancer.
Dr Erlich: I was not aware that around ten per cent of colorectal cancers over-express HER2. It’s a percentage that is much more than I really thought.
Melanie: And now with the new target, you know, the two targeted drugs, it’s really making my life, now I can plan more, you know. We can plan a trip and go, you know.
Joel: You know, every day we laugh and have a good time. We enjoy. We joke around. My job is to make sure that she laughs, at least once a day.
Melanie: My quality of life is the best, 100%, I’m doing well.