Lung cancer can be a difficult diagnosis for patients and families to receive and even more disheartening when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, resulting in lung cancer liver metastasis or liver mets. Fortunately, for patients and families, there is hope. Many treatment options are available to help fight against and defeat the disease.
To help shed light on this challenging condition, Ed, a husband, father and stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) survivor, shared his journey from diagnosis to liver metastasis survivorship. In 2012, during a health screening, doctors found a concerning mass on Ed’s liver. Further testing found that the mass originated from the lung. What started as a routine check resulted in a shocking stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis.
When Do Lung Cancer Liver Mets Occur?
When cancer cells in the lungs develop, they can break off and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Patients and caregivers often describe lung cancer as “whack-a-mole” in nature, because when doctors are able to fix one issue, more issues can emerge. The cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, like the liver. When these cells do spread to the liver it is concerning because the liver is a vital organ that performs several important functions in the body, including filtering toxins from the blood, producing bile for digestion and storing glucose (sugars) for energy. When cancer spreads to the liver, it can interfere with these functions and cause symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal pain and fatigue. This is the problem Ed’s doctors described.
Cancer cells have a greater chance of spreading as time progresses and tumors grow. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) tends to grow more rapidly leading to a higher chance of metastasis. Though, it’s important to note, metastasis can often occur in Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) patients. Only a proper diagnosis can detect any abnormalities.
Treatment Options Offer Hope.
Since then, Ed has worked closely with his care team at the Tampa Moffitt Cancer Center and together they came up with a treatment plan. His healthcare providers decided that Ed would benefit from a three-drug chemotherapy approach. This was because he didn’t have an actionable biomarker and targeted therapies weren’t an option.
Unfortunately, over time the chemotherapy became less effective, so Ed and his oncologist decided to try a Phase One immunotherapy trial. “Both my wife and I were scared. We had young grandchildren and so many things that we wanted to see and do with them. And I was afraid I was going to miss all of that, when chemo stopped working for me.” The first clinical trial caused Ed to experience extreme side effects, so he and his oncologist decided to switch to a different Phase One immunotherapy trail, which quickly began to work. Within a year, Ed’s condition stabilized and has remained so for five years after he started.
Ed shared that “There is hope. We are living long lives now, long fruitful lives where we can enjoy being with our family.” He recommends getting a biomarker test, so that proper treatment can be determined and that a second opinion can be helpful.
“At my first oncologist appointment, I was told I had only 9-12 months left to live without treatment. But I wasn't ready to give up. I wanted to explore all my options,” Ed said. This was nearly 10 years ago. Looking forward, in April 2022, Ed was declared to have “no evidence of disease” and remains so to this day. After surviving stage 4 Lung Cancer, Ed is determined to help others, so he has become an advocate, leading efforts to improve the lives of people diagnosed with lung cancer.
Support made possible by Regeneron and Sanofi Genzyme.
Blog last updated: August 25, 2023