SEATTLE, Washington – Several clinical trials are combining chemo and immunotherapy to treat lung cancer patients.
The chemo kills the cancer cells and the drug prompts the immune system to do its job.
Rider, snowboarder, climber Jim Brown took part in the trial after he was diagnosed.
"I'm the last person in the world that people would think would get lung cancer. And it was pretty shocking."
Carcinogen exposure from Jim's 25-year fire fighting career is blamed for his stage four adenocarcinoma lung cancer, diagnosed in 2015.
The symptoms of adenocarcinomas in the lung include: persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, raspy voice, cough that produces blood, and unexplained weight loss.
He didn't get the keytruda, but the chemo kept his disease stable for 22 months.
Dr. Christina Baik helped with the combination drug trial, which became the standard of care for many lung cancer patients last year.
"All patients who don't have a specific genetic mutation are receiving this drug combination of chemo and pembrolizumab as first treatment," said Dr. Baik of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Jim does have a genetic mutation.
"It's progression of medicine and unless people are willing to do clinical trials we can't move forward."
"One thing I usually tell my patients is that we want to make sure that the treatment is not worse than the cancer itself, right? So at the end of the day while we're trying to achieve is that patients are able to live a relatively normal life with their cancer," - Dr. Christina Baik
"This is a mechanism by which patients are getting treatment of tomorrow," explained Dr. Baik.
"I think that's one thing that we like to say here, that you're getting a treatment of tomorrow."
Jim is already in another trial comparing blood markers to CT scans to track disease progression.
Jim is still working in the firehouse. He is passionate about educating other firefighters on how to minimize exposure to carcinogens.