Mount Sinai Immunotherapy Trial Gives New Hope to a Liver Cancer Patient

In 2020, 68-year-old Jeffrey Foster was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma—the most common type of liver cancer—and told that removing the cancer did not mean it wouldn’t come back.

But his surgeon also gave him hopeful news, that he might be a good candidate for an immunotherapy trial headed by Thomas Marron, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Marron is investigating whether immunotherapy, before surgery, can increase the chance of survival in patients like Jeffrey with an early stage of liver cancer.

“The goal was to help kill the tumor that we see, as well as teach the immune system to recognize and kill any residual tumor cells that remain hidden after surgery that will eventually grow into new tumors,” Dr. Marron explained in a U.S. News and World Report article.

Jeffrey was offered a ten-session immunotherapy program. Before surgery to remove the tumor, it would require two infusion therapies three weeks apart and then eight more treatments after the surgery. The plan would require him to commute two hours to and from treatment, and the treatment itself would require a three-hour appointment at the infusion center. After a long talk with a friend who is a nurse, Jeffrey decided to enroll in the trial.

"They have to do blood work, taking probably eight vials of my blood every time, and I have to wait for the drug to be mixed on the spot. Then the therapy itself was about a half-hour infusion. And then I had to wait an hour afterward to make sure I was OK," explains Jeffrey.

He completed the immunotherapy treatment and surgery by May 2021. Jeffrey’s results speak for themselves: he is now cancer-free and returns for regular checkups.

“I just made an appointment for another MRI, but I had one about six months ago, and it came back perfect. I'm cancer-free, and they're pretty sure that it won't come back."

For Jeffrey, the long commutes were worth it. "It was worth it. It was worth getting up at five o-clock every morning and making the two-hour drive into the city. I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had to."