Well, not actually. The doctor's name down in Vanderbilt is Igor, pronounced the usual way. We're still getting a kick out of Rob potentially getting experimented on by an Igor, though.
The trip to Vandy was very good for our psyches. Firstly, Rob has been declared an excellent candidate for the trial. He needs to get a new CT scan, but unless it shows regression, he's in. If he does show regression, we don't want to mess with it anyway. Igor (actually Dr. Puzanov, but it's too much fun calling him Igor) was very informative, and was able to reassure us on what would happen if he ended up in the control group, and how they dealt with patients who weren't responding well to the treatment.
The trial has three branches: One gets the trial drug (MPDL4280A, or PD-1 for shorthand) alone. One gets PD-1 combined with bevacizumab, which is a TKI, or anti-angiogenic drug. One gets Sutent alone - which is the most commonly used of the TKIs in current therapy. Or in other words, branches A&B are the experimental groups, and C is the control. Thankfully these days cancer trials are run vs. the standard of care, rather than vs. a placebo.
Additionally, if the patient doesn't respond to the Sutent, they can be moved into the A group, since at that point they would be stopping Sutent therapy under the standard of care anyway. As to another concern of ours - that TKI therapy can inhibit later IL2 therapy by causing heart toxicity, Dr. P said that they had noted that, and had developed an in-house protocol for doing IL2 specifically for patients coming off of TKIs that has been working well for them.
So we came home with a pile of paperwork for Rob to read through and sign, and he should be getting his repeat CT within the next week or so. Entry into the trial won't be before I get back from Okinawa at the earliest.
The other exciting bit of news was from Dr. R - our local guy. He spent the weekend at the ASOCO annual meeting, and went to the presentation of results from the first trials of PD-1. Results are incredibly promising - 26% of patients with durable remission. Keep in mind, the durable remission numbers for IL2 are something like 4%, with another 15-20% getting a durable partial remission. PD-1 trials for melanoma were also presented, and apparently it's the first drug to show real life extension with advanced melanoma cases. He thinks that with numbers like those, it should be FDA approved for renal cell carcinoma and melanoma before the end of 2015. Knowing the FDA, I'm a little more dubious, but since it's already approved for some other cancers, it's possible.
In other random good bits, Dr. P commented that Rob's expected untreated lifespan wasn't "average of three years", which had been told to us a couple of times as the usual for stage IV RCC, but that given his blood markers and the nature of the spread, he would say "minimum of three years" if untreated. Which sounds a heck of a lot better to us. Particularly the "if untreated" part, since we're hardly going to leave this untreated. Not as good as "durable remission", but still a more upbeat take.
Three days to Okinawa! Packing! Last day of school! - busy, busy the rest of the week.