Barry Nelson, 62, lives a full life, enjoying time with his family and doing things he enjoys like riding his bicycle. Just three-and-a-half years ago, this life seemed impossible.
In 2012, Barry went to his primary care physician with neck pain, he was ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer, and given two years to live. Barry had lost his mother, grandmother, and one of his aunts to cancer, and he now found himself facing cancer. He began treatment with radiation, chemotherapy, and standard lung cancer drugs, but the side effects were painful and the results unsuccessful.
Looking for alternative treatment options, Barry sought treatment from a lung cancer specialist at Dana-Farber.
“When you get that kind of news, you want to be at a place where they have hope, and where they are going to fight as hard as you fight,” he says. “That’s why I came to Dana-Farber.”
Under the care of Dana-Farber’s Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH, Barry began participating in a clinical trial for a new immune checkpoint inhibitor, an immunotherapy drug that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Barry could feel an immediate change, and did not experience the difficult side effects he encountered with his previous treatment.
“When I first started the [immunotherapy] drug, I immediately knew it was working. I could feel my body changing—pain, neuropathy, all those things were beginning to go away. My tumors shrunk about 25 percent immediately,” Barry says.
“I don’t even feel like I’m on any type of treatment. I don’t have to be sick and lie in bed and have my life be limited,” he says.
After more than two years under Dr. Lathan’s care and on Dana-Farber’s groundbreaking clinical trial, Barry is doing “outstanding.” He feels that “to be able to participate in a cutting-edge treatment that’s going to help so many people” is part of what he was meant to do in his life.
Jennifer Skala Bodio
Assistant Director, Development Communications