Taking the Oncofocus Test: Karan’s Testimony
Karan Jensen was diagnosed in 2017, aged 48 with cervical cancer. Karan ordered the Oncofocus Test to identify additional treatment options and shares her story here in the following Q&A.
How did your diagnosis come about?
I had been having regular smear tests, but then one came back with irregular cells and the doctor asked to see me in 6 months time. We were moving, so I delayed going back, but when I did get to the doctors, they ended up doing a biopsy. Within 2 weeks I was diagnosed with Stage 2B cervical cancer with lymph node involvement.
What happened after you were diagnosed?
Treatment was started to cure my cancer. I had four cycles of cisplatin chemotherapy plus 32 sessions of radiotherapy.
Did this treatment work?
Unfortunately, the tumour did not change with this type of chemotherapy, so I then started on carboplatin and paclitaxel.
Did the second round of treatment work?
I was meant to have six sessions of this chemotherapy, but after three, I had a scan and found out that the tumour had grown. I was told that there was no point continuing treatment as my cancer was incurable, and to go home and get things in order.
Did you experience any side effects of chemotherapy?
During chemotherapy, I was hospitalised four times with infections and neutropenic sepsis. The chemotherapy also caused swelling of my legs (lymphoedema), and my kidneys had been damaged so that I had to have a nephrostomy bag attached to collect urine.
How did you feel when they told you that you cancer was incurable?
I have an 11-year-old son, so I was not going to give up and did some research online on the best treatments for my cancer.
What did you find searching online?
I found out about the Oncofocus® cancer test by Oncologica on their website and got in touch.
Was it easy getting the Oncofocus test done?
It cost £2000 but it was an easy decision to make. I just had to fill in a few forms and Oncologica did all the work to get the biopsy from my hospital.
What were the results of the Oncofocus test?
The test quickly came back that my tumour was exceptionally high in a protein called PD-L1, so it would respond really well to immunotherapy, which works by boosting a person’s immune system to help it recognise and fight cancer cells.
What happened when you knew the results of the test?
The treatment that the test recommended was not available on the NHS so my oncologist contacted Christie Hospital in Manchester, which was part of the PROCLAIM-CX-072 clinical trial that is investigating an experimental drug that targets PD-L1.
I was very sick at this stage, and the doctors were not sure that I would be well enough to get into the trial. As my levels of PD-L1 were so high, however, they thought they had to give me the opportunity.
Was this new treatment successful?
I was meant to have four sessions of CX-072 plus ipilumumab every 3 weeks, plus CX-072 maintenance therapy for a year. Although the treatment was not as bad as chemotherapy and I did not lose any hair, it still made me feel very poorly. After the third session, I developed a bad reaction and the level of some of my white blood cells that fight infection, neutrophils, plummeted and could not be restored to normal. It was therefore too risky to continue the treatment.
The good news was that a scan in March this year showed that the new therapy had reduced the tumour by 50%.
Are you still receiving treatment?
Even though the treatment has stopped, my immune system has taken over and is fighting the tumour. I am scanned every 2 months, and every time my tumour reduces by a further 0.5% to 1%. Last week I had another scan, and it had reduced by 3% and I feel better today than I have over the past 3 years.
What are your thoughts on the Oncofocus test?
If I had had the test before receiving chemotherapy, this would have saved the NHS a load of money giving me a treatment that did not work and putting me through so much. I continue to need a nephrostomy bag due to the damage done by chemotherapy, which needs changing once a week and the tubes replaced in hospital every 3 months.
What is happening now?
We are now at the ‘watch and wait’ stage. However, as I have had such a good response to the immunotherapy and feel so much better, I can have more treatment if needed in the future. The swelling in my leg has gone down and I can now wear my shoes and move around normally again. I was so sick that I did not think that I would see last Christmas. Now I will get to experience Christmas again this year.