And it’s not a moment too soon. I’ve been living in limbo land since my last caelyx chemo two months ago. I started monthly treatments of caelyx in November 2014. After my second treatment, my CA 125 (the tumour marker that usually indicates ovarian cancer is alive and growing at 35 and above) fell from 820 to 270. Who would think three digits would make me happy?
All good things come to an end, as they say. The next CA 125 shot up to 480. I had a final caelyx treatment but I knew what the numbers meant. Caelyx was drug number five and it was done with me and me with it.
A CT scan last month confirmed what had been happening on the inside. Previous sub-centimeter pulmonary nodules have disappeared from my lungs (thanks Caelyx!) only to be replaced by 16 new ones — they’re small but they’re new.
The big tumour in my liver is slightly smaller 3.5 x 2.8 cm but now numerous other lesions have developed… All except two are sub-centimeter. “All likely new metastases,” says the report. And Lucy? The big tumour on my right side is slightly smaller… 5.6 x 4.9 cm.
Meanwhile, my CA125 was 1,200 a month ago and two weeks later, it’s 2,000. My CA125 is now higher than it ever was other than just before surgery 4.5 years ago, when it was 2,375.
And we have come to know pain in the last few months. Not agonizing, tv-drama pain. Discomfort. Extreme. Not being able to sleep on my side. Pulling back from a friend when I see a big, tight hug coming. Hugging myself when a sneeze comes. I’m learning to cope with narcotics but sometimes they don’t work as well as a tiny 4 mg steroid or a hot bean bag nestled in my bed.
Of the two doctors I see at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, one is far more positive about the trial’s success. She says that 75% of the patients she’s enrolled in it have a positive response to it. I’m joining the 75% tomorrow! (The other doctor talks about a much lower response rate but she’s looking at larger numbers of women on the study… about 300 have taken this drug in several phases of the trial. You know who I’m listening to.)
What’s Rucaparib All About?
Rucaparib is one of the new PARP inhibitor drugs that is having good results with women with advanced ovarian cancer.
Rucaparib belongs to a new class of anti-cancer agents known as PARP inhibitors. I was supposed to have been on a similar trial last summer but a new tumour got in the way.
PARP is a protein inside all cells that helps repair damage to DNA, the genetic material that carries instructions for your body’s growth and development.
Think of PARP as your city’s road repair department: when DNA is damaged by sunlight, radiation, etc., PARP gets to work at repairing the cell (fixes the potholes in the road). The problem is that PARP helps cancer cells repair themselves as well.
Enter the Superhero Team known as PARP inhibitors. PARP inhibitors trick the PARP protein into not working. Think of them as the emergency team that rushes directly to the site of the DNA repair in the cancer cell. Whether through DNA tricks or Cirque du Soleil high wire antics, the PARP inhibitors distract the PARP team from road repair. The result? The DNA defect is not repaired and the cancer cell, without instructions for growth and development, dies. Hail the Super Team… arriving here on Tuesday!
I have two friends who are scheduled for this same trial. We are watched carefully — blood regularly tested and after eight weeks we will have another CT scan to see if rucaparib is doing what it’s supposed to do. Has it worked? How long will it work? What’s the effect, good and/or bad on the patient and her disease. And who will it leave behind?
Think of us this week as we meet our new superhero. And thank you for reading, for your support and your wonderful comments. Here’s to a good life for all of us.