Adults' Stories

Against the odds: Patti’s story of beating inoperable lung cancer

“I’m the only person I’ve heard of who had a good time during cancer treatment.”

Even through a difficult but successful battle with inoperable lung cancer, Patti Callan of North Augusta, South Carolina, radiates positivity.

“I was having fun, and I wasn’t supposed to be,” Callan said with a cautious smile.

Callan attributes all of the fun she was having to eating anything she wanted to during treatment without gaining weight.

The diagnosis, treatment and ‘miracle drug’

In December 2014, Callan visited her primary care physician at Augusta University Health for relief from what she thought was a sinus infection. Following a review of her chest X-ray results, her physician referred her for further testing, and she was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after.

Upon diagnosis, Callan’s primary care physician referred her for treatment at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. During her six-week chemotherapy and radiation treatment, her thoracic oncologist, Dr. Zhonglin Hao, who’s also the leader of the thoracic oncology program at the Georgia Cancer Center, introduced her to a clinical trial from which he believed she could benefit.

Two weeks after completing treatment, she started on the trial for a drug called Medi4736, which involved a 12-month course that she completed in April 2016.

“Medi4736 is a monoclonal antibody,” said Hao. “It disables cancer cells of their ‘Tasers’ so patients’ immune systems can detect and kill tumors easily. Ms. Callan responded very well to the drug she received.”

Callan served as one of about 265 subjects at 47 sites across the United States to participate in the clinical trial and about 972 subjects in 27 countries worldwide. Access to clinical trials is one of the many unique benefits of the Georgia Cancer Center.

“They gave me a 10 percent chance of survival with chemo and radiation and 25 percent with the drug,” Callan said, “but I knew right away that it was working.”

Callan said she started gaining weight again. This was one of the signs that led her to believe she had received the drug versus the placebo.

“Cancer is sneaky and can outsmart many of the drugs. But this ‘miracle drug’ is smarter than the cancer, and that’s such incredible news for the world.”

Exercise: ‘The best drug out there, but you can’t put it in a capsule’

Patti is convinced that her active lifestyle also aided in her successful treatment.

“I’d get off the radiation table and go and work out,” Callan said. “Working out is the best drug out there, but you can’t put it in a capsule.”

Callan looks forward to continuing to advocate for her own life with healthy living, as well as on a larger scale for lung cancer awareness.

“This experience has made me an advocate,” Callan said. “I want people to know how very little funding goes into lung cancer research, that it’s our No. 1 cancer killer and that it’s not always caused by smoking. I also want people to know there’s always a silver lining; believing in this has helped me cope with having lung cancer.”

If it’s cancer, see us first.

To learn about our cancer specialists and services, visit augustahealth.org/cancer.

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