“I’m alive today because of genomic testing,” says Star.
At 50, Star experienced severe pain in her left side. Her physicians ruled out musculoskeletal issues, kidney stones, gynecologic disorders, and acid reflux. A gastroenterologist scoped her GI tract, which didn’t detect anything suspicious but precipitated a severe cough and nausea. These symptoms led her to the ER.
There, an X-ray of her chest showed a large pleural effusion. A CT scan revealed a mass. A PET scan showed the cancer had metastasized throughout Star’s body, including her brain. The diagnosis was stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Fluid had accumulated in her lungs, making a tissue biopsy extremely challenging. So, Star’s physician ordered a liquid biopsy test to obtain genomic results. The results came back positive for an EGFR mutation that about 15% of lung cancer patients have. She immediately started on a targeted therapy that the FDA had just approved four months earlier.
Thanks to this precise diagnosis and quick intervention, Star is doing well more than two years later.
AJ was told he had six months to live. That was seven years ago. He had no medical problems—or so he thought—until he started wheezing when he exhaled and frequently had to clear his throat. His primary care physician found nothing wrong, but the symptoms got worse.
He was diagnosed with allergies. Then an X-ray revealed a nodule in his lung. A CT scan showed masses in both lungs. AJ, in disbelief, said, “But I don’t smoke.” An oncologist recommended a brain scan. AJ couldn’t understand why, he had lung cancer after all. But the scan confirmed that brain tumors were present too. Before AJ proceeded with surgery, the oncologist sent out for genomic testing, something AJ had never heard of.
Within five days, the results were clear. The testing had detected a targetable mutation. After four rounds of chemotherapy, AJ started targeted treatment. Today, he remains on the same therapy.
Originally given six months to live, AJ is still alive today more than seven years later. He believes that complete genomic testing saved his life and that it should be the standard of care for all advanced cancer patients. In fact, AJ is now a passionate advocate for genomic testing and meets with state legislators to talk about its importance.
At 63, Lynn was diagnosed with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Following a period of remission, she learned two years later that her cancer had returned as stage IV.
Her oncologist, Dr. Luis Raez, recommended Lynn undergo a Guardant360 liquid biopsy test, and the results confirmed an EGFR mutation that about 15% of lung cancer patients have. Dr. Raez discussed the results with Lynn and suggested a targeted therapy specific to her cancer type that would allow her to continue living a normal, active life.
Six months after beginning therapy, Lynn returned to work as a school administrator and is able to engage in the activities she loves, including spending time with her husband of 39 years and college-age son, taking part in local church-sponsored activities, and serving on the board of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.
While receiving a cancer diagnosis is frightening, Lynn credits complete genomic testing as a source of hope during her treatment journey.