At the age of 28, Laura Dixon was diagnosed with colon cancer and 17 years later, she received surgical treatment for pancreatic cancer. A year after that, her condition worsened again and she was diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer while undergoing a hysterectomy.
The cause for this series of cancers was hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, known as HNPCC or Lynch syndrome. This genetic syndrome puts patients at high risk of developing several cancers, including the ones Laura experienced.
Laura was fighting with more than two cancers at a time, and her ovarian cancer treatment had to be cut short due to side-effects from the medication she was taking. To make matters worse, her pancreatic cancer had spread to her liver.
Eventually, doctors ran out of options, and the toxic effects from her treatments, while making her miserable, only promised to prolong her life a few short weeks. According to Laura, it wasn't the first time she'd heard she had a very limited time to live. But this time Laura decided to quit the treatment and leave everything to destiny.
Laura's father on the other hand wasn't ready to quit. He started requesting second opinions from several high-end oncologists across the country.
Laura Enrolls in a Clinical Trial
Fortunately, his efforts lead to Laura volunteering at Richard J. Solove Research Institute and OSUCCC-James Cancer Hospital for an immunotherapy clinical trial based on testing pembrolizumab, an intravenous drug.
Pembrolizumab had proved to be effective in cases of "microsatellite instability" -- cells that have a high number of mutations when replicating. Laura's cells lost their ability to repair tiny DNA errors which resulted in cancers with unchecked cellular growth.
Pembrolizumab has proven to be instrumental in enhancing the survival rate of patients with Lynch syndrome, and thankfully this proved to be the case with Laura.
After 17 treatments, Laura's liver cancer was gone, and Lynch syndrome has become diagnosable via genetic testing, raising hopes for other patients.
Laura now exercises 90 minutes every day, attends a full-time job at a Columbus area insurance company, and recently went horseback riding with her father.
Laura is thankful for her new life and pushes herself to do things outside of her comfort zone – just because she can!