Four years ago, John Floyd didn’t think he’d be where he is today. At the time, wracked with a cough that had persisted for a year, he was diagnosed with stage IV renal cell carcinoma.
But following surgery to remove his right kidney and three types of chemotherapies that yielded no positive results for over a year, Floyd, 76, responded well to a treatment he received through a clinical trial at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California.
“I have a whole new lease on life,” he said. “I can function as a human being. It’s as good as it gets when you have cancer and you’re told you have 6-18 months and then more than 4 years down the road, you’re still going.”
Floyd said his initial doctor was at his wit’s end and supported his decision to get a second opinion at City of Hope.
There, he saw Dr. Sumanta Pal who suggested Floyd enroll in a phase III clinical trial comparing the experimental targeted therapy tivozanib with sorafenib (sold as Nexavar), which is already FDA approved to treat kidney cancer, in patients who had been treated with two or more prior therapies.
The results of that trial, presented last November at the International Kidney Cancer Symposium in Miami, Florida and published in the journal The Lancet in December, showed that progression-free survival (PFS) was 28 percent with tivozanib after one year compared with 11 percent with sorafenib. After two years of treatment, PFS was 18 percent with tivozanib compared with 5 percent with sorafenib, though overall survival favors sorafenib.
Floyd was one of those who received tivozanib and has been on it for almost four years. For him, the drug has been a success, halting the spread of cancer. Also, he no longer coughs, does not cough up blood, and does not need to use extra oxygen.
“It was the smartest thing I ever did. It was clear if I was ever unhappy [in the clinical trial] I could opt out,” Floyd said.
Like anyone in treatment for cancer, Floyd is not always at his best and sometimes experiences nausea and diarrhea. He often has to remind his wife, who can get worried during those times, that side effects are a normal reaction to therapy.
Floyd said staying positive helped him the most in the last several years.
“If you dwell on sickness and problems, you’re not focusing on trying to get better,” he said. “And as friends, we have to provide support and encourage others.”