“Bobby had the least trouble of all of us,” recalled Claudia Kadis of her husband’s climbing around the ruins of Machu Picchu in November, 2013. The Kadis’ explored the iconic Incan ruins in Peru at an altitude of 8,000 feet. Everyone in the group struggled with the altitude and the steep inclines. The only difference for Bobby was that he had just completed the surgical removal of two-thirds of his left lung, followed by multiple rounds of chemotherapy for treatment of lung cancer.
Diagnosed with Stage 2 non-small cell lung cancer in the spring of 2013, Bobby battled his cancer much the same way he goes through life – with tremendous fortitude and with the help and support of his wife of fifty years, Claudia.
“We balanced each other nicely throughout treatment,” says Bobby. “She worried about everything so I didn’t have to.”
For his initial diagnosis over two years ago, Bobby received his primary care at UNC Rex Cancer Care under the treatment of Dr. Jeremiah Boles, as well as consultation from Dr. Thomas Stinchcombe at UNC Lineberger. After the surgery and several months of chemotherapy, Bobby was back doing the things he loves, like throwing beautiful, hand-crafted pottery, traveling and participating in Bikram “hot” yoga sessions.
But, in the fall of 2014, Bobby started to show symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath, something not normal for the very fit 78-year-old.
Following a scan in October 2014, they found that Bobby’s cancer had returned.
A biopsy confirmed the return of the cancer which indicated it was Stage 4. At that point, Bobby was referred from Rex to UNC Lineberger to meet with Dr. Stinchcombe to discuss entering a clinical trial.
During his earlier treatment, Bobby’s tumor was sequenced using next generation sequencing at UNC Lineberger to better understand the specific genetic mutation that was driving his cancer. In Bobby’s case, this was a mutation known as epidermal growth factor receptor or ‘EGFR,’ a mutation found in the tumors of advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients. Knowing this, his care team could then determine if Bobby was eligible for targeted therapy, specifically a clinical trial using a combination therapy of erlotinib and bevacizumab, compared to the standard therapy of erlotinib alone. The trial results would determine which treatment worked better in patients with EGFR mutant non-small cell lung cancer.
At the time, there were only 10 spots open at UNC for this trial, and seven were already taken. Bobby qualified for the 8th spot. A randomized computer selection would determine if he received one or both therapies. “We were thrilled,” says Claudia, “although we knew there was a chance that Bobby would not be put on the dual therapy regimen, he was selected to receive both therapies.”
Bobby started his treatment in the clinical trial shortly after his recurrence diagnosis, with a combination therapy of an infusion every 21 days and a daily oral pill. Following the first scan after two months, doctors were pleased to report Bobby had experienced “significant regression.”
“I’ll never forget it, Dr. Stinchcombe saying to me, ‘Your cancer is shrinking.’” said Bobby. Subsequent scans have indicated that his cancer is no longer observable on the scan.
The side effects from the dual therapies are mostly treatable and tolerable, according to Bobby, and his response continues to be very positive.
“We learned from Dr. Stinchcombe that cancer is a part of our life, not our life,” says Claudia.
Now, Bobby is back to doing what he loves: pottery, yoga and spending time with Claudia, their three children and six grandchildren.