Patient Stories

Dan participated in clinical research that saved his lifeDan's Story

When Dan was diagnosed with lung cancer, he decided he wasn’t going to give up. We didn’t either.

After experiencing shortness of breath at work, Dan’s wife brought him to the emergency room. They feared he may be experiencing a heart attack—and were unprepared to learn that he had lung cancer. Dan turned to St. Vincent Healthcare Cancer Centers of Montana and Dr. Marty Lucas. Seeing Dan’s determination, Dr. Lucas fought to have him included in a research trial for a new drug designed to target and shrink his tumor. The treatment worked. Once given six months to live, he now has a renewed energy and a lifetime of morning walks to look forward to.

“I tell people ‘never give up hope. Treatments are  improving all the time. 
This was like a miracle for me.”       
- Dan Vogt, Immunotherapy Patient

Dan Vogt, 67, from Billings, Montana, wasn’t alarmed  when he experienced chest pain on the job. As  a heavy equipment operator and mechanic, he  suspected he’d pulled a muscle. However, as the  pain persisted, his wife, Joy, convinced him to go to  the emergency room. What they discovered there  stunned them. 

It turned out Vogt had a large mass on his lung. He  was advised to see his primary care physician who  referred him to St. Vincent Healthcare Frontier Cancer  Center, where he saw Dr. Martin Lucas, an oncologist.  Nothing could have prepared Vogt for the results  of further testing. He was told he had stage 4 lung  cancer with only six months to live. 
“My doctor told me I needed to do something real  quick,” Vogt said. “I didn’t want to have chemo or  radiation because of the side effects. I just wanted to  enjoy the time I had left. But when my doctor told me  she’d read about a new experimental drug without  those side effects, I figured I had nothing to lose.”  

The drug Dr. Lucas had in mind was called Avelumab,  an immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy drugs tend  to have fewer side effects than traditional cancer  therapies. But before Vogt could start treatment,  he needed to undergo PDL1 testing to determine  if his cancer was the type that would benefit from  immunotherapy. PDL1 testing measures the amount  of PDL1, a protein, on cancer cells. Elevated PDL1  levels can “trick” the immune system into “thinking”  cancer cells are normal cells. Avelumab helps the  immune system recognize the cancer cells so it can  remove them.  

Vogt underwent a blood test and was told his biomarkers fit the drug 100 percent, qualifying him for the clinical  trial. He began bimonthly infusions of Avelumab and received CAT scans every 12 weeks to monitor the tumor. In the first six months, Vogt’s tumor shrank by almost 67 percent.  
“I have no side effects,” Vogt says. “No hair loss, no nausea, nothing. I tell people ‘never give up hope.’  Treatments are improving all the time. This was like a miracle for me.” 
Now three years later, at cycle 80 of his Avelumab treatment, Vogt is virtually disease free. Once given just six  months to live, Vogt is enjoying an active life filled with all of his favorite activities, including golf, walks with his  dog and quality time with his family and friends. 

Kelli's Story

289x244KelliClinicalResearchPatientSuccessKelli, a licensed practical nurse, never expected to receive a cancer diagnosis. When she did, she turned to St. Vincent Healthcare Frontier Cancer Center. The oncology team’s approach has allowed her to continue her nursing work. By participating in national drug trials to relieve symptoms associated with head and neck cancer, Kelli has been able to focus on the activities and people she loves most.

From diagnosing and treating cancer to giving our patients access to the latest research trials, we’re here with you every step of the way.


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