James Cisneros’ Patient Story
In 2020, James Gregory Cisneros, had a regular checkup with his general practitioner physician and mentioned to his physician that he often had spongey breath in the morning, while he was insistent that he had no other symptoms of anything wrong, his doctor decided to take an X-ray just in case.
The results of that x-ray would shock James and his doctor; after seeing a pulmonologist in June 2020, James was diagnosed with invasive mucinous adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer they found in his lower right lung.
This was especially shocking to James as he was not a smoker, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10 the 20 percent of lung cancer cases a year in the U.S. occur in nonsmokers.
After seeing an oncologist in September 2020, James would have the bottom portion of his lung resected followed by four months of chemotherapy. James quickly found the side effects of this therapy to be both “brutal and discouraging.” At his six-month scan after chemotherapy, they would find the illness had spread to both of his lungs.
Further biopsies and genetic testing found that James had the HER2 genetic signature for his cancer. After another failed round of chemotherapy, James was sent to Mary Crowley Cancer Research in the beginning of 2023 for a clinical trial to test a targeted drug for this genetic abnormality.
“I said look, I will give this three shots and that’s it,” said James. James, a former mountain climber, surfer and all-around adventurous person had nearly died many times before and was not afraid to make this his last shot at treatment before giving up.
James quickly found the targeted drug for his genetic signature to be “like a miracle drug to me because I have a life now,” going from being told he only had a few years left to live to a much-improved prognosis with his tumor more than 90 percent reduced. “It just wiped it out,” excitedly stated James.
James, despite finding after his lung resection that he doesn’t have the same abilities he once had, is improving over time, now swimming for exercise and setting goals to try to get himself back to where he once was. James, a retired flight attendant, also is excited to get back to traveling the globe, stating, “I just got back from Oaxaca, Mexico, it was my first trip since getting sick.” James’ next trip will be to his home country of Peru.
Now nearly a year later since he began the clinical trial, James also stated that the side effects were also much more tolerable than those he had while undergoing chemotherapy, saying they were “uncomfortable but much better than the alternative.”
James thinks he will have to continue the treatment for approximately two more years but has found the process to be well worth it. “There are long days at treatment, but I read and watch movies on my iPad…. Everybody at Mary Crowley is great, the nurses are awesome, everybody’s been very professional,” stated James.