New Lung Cancer Treatment Discovered in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Imagine being told you only have six months to live.

For one Sioux Falls woman, this was her reality in 2016 after a lung cancer diagnosis, but a clinical study held locally has changed that. It was offered at Sanford Health and one patient is seeing dramatic improvements to her stage four cancer.

“It takes a while to sink in that you actually have cancer,” says Eunice Richmond.

In 2016 doctors found a tumor in Eunice Richmond’s lung. Dr. Steven Powell told Eunice, without treatment, she only had 6 months to live.

“I started getting my affairs in order. You know taking care of funeral arrangements,” says Richmond.

But there was hope. At Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, Eunice participated in a blind study for advanced lung cancer patients.

Sanford is one of a couple dozen cancer centers that hosted the clinical trial to test a revolutionary treatment. It mixes the immunotherapy drug Keytruda and chemotherapy.

“We’re basically going to an all-out war against the cancer. We are sending in the marines the navy the ground troops everybody to really get the cancer under control and attack it,” says Dr. Powell.

Dr. Powell says the results are doubling the chance of survival and patients are seeing a substantial decrease in tumor size. He says it’s the immunotherapy that is changing the way doctors are treating cancer.

“This is going to change the field dramatically, so I do think this is a starting point. For a lot more research in a lot of different cancer types,” says Dr. Powell.

Eunice is glad she took part in the study- not only for her own benefit but for the next generation of cancer patients.

“Doing something is better than doing nothing, and I figure if it didn’t help me maybe it’ll help the next person down the line,” says Richmond.

Dr. Powell says it’s important to offer these clinical trials in South Dakota.

“We need to offer this here we have to have this available for our patients here so they don’t have to travel. Many people already travel two hours to see us in Sioux Falls and so you know we know these are important,” says Dr. Powell.

“I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have this study here,” says Richmond.

After 30 treatments and five more to go Eunice’s tumor is hardly that.

“They don’t even call it a tumor anymore,” says Richmond.

While immunotherapy seems like the next best thing Dr. Powell says it’s side effects are intense, but they can be reversed with medication.

Keytruda is also pricey. It’s about $10,000 a dose without insurance.

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