Last Shot: Navigating the World of a Clinical Drug Trial

Categories: Last Shot

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Lindsey Best
Andrew Youssef
[Editor's Note: Long-time concert photographer Andrew Youssef found out two years ago that he had stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events, on top of other freelance work and working a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]

It has been two and half years since my initial diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago, other times not so much. During this time, I've been on a vast number of chemotherapy medications, looking for the miracle drug that would either cure or contain my cancer. My tumor levels have been all over the place, going as low as back to normal and as high as back to when I was initially diagnosed.

See Also:
- Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer

As I mentioned in prior columns, my cancer has continued to spread and now resides in my spine, kidneys, thyroid and lungs, as well as nearly fifty percent of my liver. My oncologist made the recommendation that I seek a clinical trial to find an investigational new drug that would have a different mechanism of action to eradicate my cancer. This is a scary proposition as chemotherapy inherently has a number of unique side effects that can be just as damaging as the cancer itself.

The other stark realization that hit me was that I'm running out of options that could save my life. How much longer can my body hang on with my cancer running unchecked throughout? Initially, I was going to get Cyberknife radiation therapy to eradicate my metastasis to the spine, but when I met with a new oncologist who has access to some investigational clinical trial chemotherapy medications, he warned me that it could keep me out of the study if I received radiation. Overall, It is more important for me to receive some form of systemic chemotherapy treatment and hope that it curtails the growth in my spine enough to get radiation later.

The study I was fortunate to enroll in involves a drug labeled as TAS-102. The positive aspect of this drug is it is in a pill form and doesn't involve me making numerous trips to the oncologist to get the medication intravenously. One of the more challenging aspects of the study is that in order to get the medication, you need to jump through a number of hoops. This particular study is looking to see how fast the drug metabolizes in the body. To achieve this information, I am sequestered to the hospital for nearly thirteen hours.


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6 comments
Christopher Schmidt
Christopher Schmidt

Hoping the oral chemotherapeutic works for him, as obviously most of the first line colon cancer agents have not, as it all depends what the staging is and the pathology that dictate the regimen you receive. Good luck sir.

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

This man is a hero. Patients who undergo this type of treatment/research pave the way for themselves and for future patients who will become victims of the horrific disease, cancer. My father passed away in January. By the time he became symptomatic, his lung cancer was stage four. From time of diagnosis we had four days left with my Dad. Cancer is ugly.

Casey Kohler
Casey Kohler

Hes choosing to not heal himself apparently, because do you know how many times ive seen people post that on here.

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