ST. LOUIS - A diagnosis, a chemotherapy treatment, a remission: in 2007, Ken Wikoff beat a rare form of T-cell lymphoma.
Then it came back.
“It is devastating,” Wikoff said of the news that his cancer returned.
He went to Siteman Cancer Center, where he met Dr. Amanda Cashen. She was interested in putting Wikoff on a new drug called ADCETRIS.
“It’s a way to deliver the chemo very specifically to the lymphoma cell,” she explained. “It is an improvement in the treatment to have the targeted chemo therapy so that the lymphoma or other cancer cells are feeling the chemotherapy effects and we are sparing a lot of the toxicity on other parts of the body.”
“We had about 10 minutes to say yes or no,” recalls Ken. “I’m glad we said yes.”
After about two weeks, he was cancer free again.
Then it came back again.
Every time he went on ADCETRIS, he was in remission within weeks. But then shortly after each, his cancer came back. That’s when he and Dr. Cashen decided to keep him on the drug consistently.
“It’s an amazing drug and there’s no reason to really stop the drug because it doesn't’t affect any of your organs, it just targets the cancer cells by itself,” he said.
“Your lymphoma has been turned into a chronic disease,” said Dr. Cashen to Wikoff. “You have to come in and get treatment every other month.”
Ten years later, Wikoff has been on the medication for longer than anyone.
“Many other patients have followed him to get this treatment, both for T cell lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphomas,” said Dr. Cashen. “I really see this is a new frontier and cancer therapies, to find these other targeted treatments. The trick is just finding the right target for all the different kinds of cancers.”
Wikoff has become an advocate for further research. He hopes soon the FDA will approve ADCETRIS as a front-line form of therapy for people with cancer diagnoses.
“You never think that you’re in a position to hopefully help somebody out in the future, to give them another avenue to get the medicine where chemo and that wasn’t working, but this may work,” he said. “It’s my mission. I was meant for this. Unfortunately, but at least it’s me going through it. Not somebody else,” he added. “Some people can’t handle it. I can.”
To find out more about ADCETRIS, visit their website.