Dr. Kassar is a good doctor, and the nurses and staff at Northwest Oncology are very professional, and they were very nice to me. I tell people now that if you feel pain, you don’t recognize, see a doctor. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today.
He was ready to give up. The chemotherapy treatment for his lung cancer wasn’t working, and its side effects, including fatigue, hair loss, and upset stomach, were taking their toll. Henry Dziadon of Cedar Lake didn’t think he had a chance to live, but thanks to cutting-edge clinical trials for immune therapy, to FDA approval, and to Dr. Mohamad Kassar and the care Henry received at Northwest Cancer Center in Dyer, he is currently in full remission.
Henry is now 79 years young. He retired from his job as a lift truck driver for the Ford Motor Company after 331⁄2 years and was beginning to enjoy his retirement. He was a smoker, as many of his generations were, but in 2010, he kicked the habit.
During the summer of 2013, Henry experienced shortness of breath while out in his backyard. His wife Kathleen convinced him to see a doctor, and he had an appointment with Dr. May Lee at the Hammond Clinic. A biopsy was performed, and there was cancer in one of Henry’s lungs. He was told he needed surgery.
“I cried when I found out I had lung cancer, and I was worried about the operation, as well,” he said.
This time, he could not tolerate it, and it wasn’t working. This was when Henry told Dr. Kassar he was tired of the chemotherapy treatments and just wanted to be comfortable and let nature take its course. Around this time, Dr. Kassar decided to take a leap of faith and use a different approach to treat Henry using immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells. Although this type of treatment was not yet approved for Henry’s particular condition, Dr. Kassar’s knowledge and experience in cutting-edge clinical trials proved to be beneficial. Almost immediately, Henry began feeling better. Dr. Kassar and his team at Northwest Oncology were one of the first in the area to begin using OPDIVO and other immunotherapies to give patients another treatment option.
“This is a new class of drugs that are administered intravenously and is a different concept than chemotherapy,” noted Dr. Kassar. “Since being treated with immune therapy, Henry has gained back his energy, his hair has grown back, and he is enjoying a good quality of life, and that’s the most important thing. He has been in complete remission since November 2015.”
Henry has his treatment once every two weeks and is monitored by PET scans and CT scans. Because of Henry’s response to the treatment, Dr. Kassar has reduced the frequency of scans. Dr. Kassar said that immune therapy is very new, and no clear data exists yet about long-term effects or for how long a patient must receive the treatment. However, there has been much success in the treatment of breast, kidney, head and neck, and esophageal cancers, as well as in melanoma.
“In studies, one class of patients experienced long-lasting remission,” Dr. Kassar explained. “We can’t really call this a ‘cure’, so we don’t want to stop the immune therapy, and in Henry’s case, we will continue it.”
Dr. Kassar emphasized that the landscape of lung cancer has changed greatly in the last four years. Instead of the same “recipe” for each lung cancer patient, care is now individualized: doctors look at the person’s genetic and immune profile to see what drives cancer growth and to determine how to cripple the genes that cause cancer to grow. The developers of this class of drugs, James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo, were awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation, Dr. Kassar added. “Immune therapy, instead of being the back up when chemotherapy doesn’t work, is now used as a frontline treatment, as it’s less toxic and easier on the body,” noted Dr. Kassar. “Immune therapy is effective for patients with a marker called PDL1, that is more than 50%.”
As for Henry, he has a new lease on life, spending time with his wife and daughter, and hitting After his surgery, Henry referred to Dr. Kassar and scans every three months,
his cancer came back. According to Dr. Kassar, in January 2014, Henry was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, as his cancer had spread.
Dr. Kassar put Henry on the standard chemotherapy regimen that is given to most individuals with Stage 4 cancer. He received multiple lines of chemo and had a good response. Henry’s April 2014 scan was good, but in July 2014, the cancer was back with a vengeance. More chemotherapy treatment resulted in a good response, but it was not as good as his initial response. From July to October 2014, Henry was administered different chemotherapies and suffered many side effects. In October 2015, his cancer returned yet again, and Henry had more chemotherapy. However,
was had but the links. He is grateful for Dr. Kassar, who he calls a “good doctor,” and he said the nurses and staff at Northwest Oncology are very professional and nice to him. He also hasn’t lost sight of a vital lesson.
“I tell people now that if you feel pain, you don’t recognize, see a doctor,” warns Henry. “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Northwest Oncology provides state-of-the-art cancer care by combining the latest in traditional medicines and progressive integrative medicine to help patients help their own bodies heal.