In 2006, life was good for Bob Amendola, his wife, and their two young children. “We had a normal life, career was going well, everything going as planned,” he said. “Then I felt a lump in my collarbone.” His diagnosis: Stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It had spread to his lymph nodes, esophagus, and brain. His oncologist gave him a prognosis of six months to maybe a year and recommended palliative care. Mr. Amendola had other ideas as he looked into the eyes of his oncologist and said, “I’m not going anywhere, you and I are going to grow old together.” Six years later, after enduring wave after wave of various chemotherapies, radiation to the chest and head, which left him exhausted and nauseated, he was still alive, but eventually the treatments were no longer effective. Mr. Amendola wasn’t willing to give up, however, and his oncologist sent him to Dr. Scott Gettinger at Yale.
In early 2012, Mr. Amendola joined Dr. Gettinger’s trial of a new immunotherapy drug called atezolizumab. Mr. Amendola also said to Dr. Gettinger, “We’re going to grow old together, doc.” At that time, there was a tumor pushing about two inches through his rib cage. Soon after he started the trial, he noticed the lump in his chest seemed to be getting smaller. Three months after his first series of treatments, on a Friday afternoon, he had a follow-up CT scan and was anxiously waiting for the results, which were scheduled for the following week.
That Saturday his phone rang, “I’ll never forget seeing Dr. Gettinger’s name come up on the caller ID, my knees were weak, and my heart was POUNDING,” he remembered. Dr. Gettinger asked, ‘Are you sitting down? I cannot believe this, but your mass has shrunk about 50 percent.’ As you can imagine, Mr. Amendola and his family were jumping for joy. After twelve months of atezolizumab, Mr. Amendola’s scans showed no signs of cancer. “Because of immunotherapy,” he said, “I am cancer free and I get to do the things I love to do and live a normal life.” Eight years later, his semi-annual scans remain clean. “I owe a lot to Dr. Gettinger and his team,” he said.
“He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and he has a great team of nurses and doctors around him. The whole facility is top-notch with friendly and accommodating staff who will do whatever you need,” he added. “They could rest on their laurels, but they are learning from my data so they can help others achieve the same success.”