Immunotherapy: a new treatment that changes everything for a mother with cancer

Immunotherapy: a new treatment that changes everything for a mother with an cancer


A mother from Montérégie, who was bedridden with pain only a few months ago, is now battling her rare cancer by working and playing with her children thanks to a new treatment.

“It's worth gold. I was given the chance to experience my daughter's return to school, to celebrate my guy's four years […] p>

Only 40 years old and mother of five children, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma last spring. It is a rare cancer of the membrane surrounding the lung, caused by asbestos.

It is also not a sneaky cancer that grows bigger without symptoms for years, but rather a lightning-fast cancer. From a mass of eight centimeters detected at the end of March, the tumor was about 20 centimeters at the end of May, says Ms. Beaudin.

“I was in pain 23 hours a day,” she recalls. I could no longer walk, I could no longer stand or sit. She spent several weeks lying on a chair taking painkillers… with no hope of recovery.

“I knew I had cancer, but we didn't know which one yet,” explains the woman from Henryville, then being treated at the Haut-Richelieu Hospital, where she also worked answering calls.

Uncertainty and pain

The uncertainty surrounding her illness and the rapidity with which her pain was getting worse completely turned her family life upside down.

Her husband Alexandre Derrien says he “fallen into neutral”. 

“I couldn't believe it was cancer, she was too young,” he sighs. Fortunately, the couple were able to count on the help of their parents and Mrs. Beaudin's adult daughters.

Refusing her fate, the mother of the family insisted that her file be transferred to the CHUM, where a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

From the outset, she was offered a brand new treatment by double immunotherapy.

Unlike conventional chemotherapy, which targets the tumour, immunotherapy activates the immune system to attack cancer cells.

It “fires the fire

“I was sure it was a joke that was,” she says, adding that she agreed anyway, having nothing to lose.

From the very first treatment, everything changed. 

“I thought I was crazy. I felt that it was working, that my pain was changing places”, she describes.

After three months of treatment every three weeks, Ms. Beaudin says that she is “going on fire”. 

The mass is shrinking, the pain is gone, but most importantly she has returned to normal life. She can work and avoid the financial problems that too often follow people battling cancer. In addition to continuing to see her two youngest children, aged four and five, grow up.

Although it is too early to speak of remission, Ms. Beaudin believes that she may already have gained two years of life, when she would have already died without treatment. 

A cancer that is no longer a “death sentence” 

A diagnosis of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos, was like “a death sentence” before the arrival of immunotherapy treatments last year, according to a CHUM researcher.

Dr Marie Florescu. Hematologist-oncologist

“To have hope and an effective treatment like that, it's really very encouraging,” says hematologist-oncologist Marie Florescu, at the University Center of the University of Montreal (CHUM ).

Last year, a drug for intravenous injection was approved by Health Canada and is now reimbursed by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, she explains. 

Clinical studies have shown survival rates of 41% in more than 600 patients, she continues, adding that this is first and foremost a breakthrough for patients.

Because before this dual immunotherapy treatment , which stimulates the immune system, patients had virtually no options. 

Dr. Florescu points out that some could undergo chemotherapy, but successes were rare and quickly, doctors had no only palliative care to offer.

7% survival

The overall five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is currently 7% in Canada. And that's not counting the pain, she says.

“A mesothelioma that passes through the nerves, bones, muscles, it causes a lot of suffering compared to other cancers”, she explains.

She remembers that at the first visit of Karen Beaudin, who has been receiving the new treatment since May, she was in too much pain to sit still and had to lie on the couch. exam.

“On her second visit, she was dancing the samba. It was really spectacular,” says the doctor.

The diagnosis also took longer for Ms. Beaudin, since she had no occupational exposure to asbestos.

< p>Dr. Florescu says she is encouraged by the “spectacular responses” of the patients she has been following since last year. She adds that unlike chemotherapy, whose effects stop when the treatments have stopped, immunotherapy wakes up the immune system in the longer term.