Dr. Mohammad Jahanzeb is a pulmonary oncologist and Medical Director at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Deerfield Beach, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System. To find a doctor or make an appointment at one of Sylvester's locations (Miami, Deerfield Beach, Kendall, Coral Gables, Plantation, Coral Springs and Hollywood), visit the Sylvester website or call the patient access program at 305-243-5302 or 877-243-1056. For more lung cancer news and research, go to University of Miami's health news blog.
Over the past seven years, Charlotte Rothfarb has witnessed the birth of three great-grandchildren, milestones she could scarcely imagine when she was diagnosed with stage IV bi-lateral lung cancer at age 80.
Under the care of Dr. Mohammad Jahanzeb at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center's Deerfield Beach location, Charlotte underwent a series of single agent chemotherapy treatments to prolong her survival.
"When you walk into Sylvester, their arms are out. They hug you," says Charlotte. "You know that you're being cared for and they are giving you everything they've got, academically as well as emotionally. They give it to you and you feel it."
In March 2015, when it appeared that Charlotte had run out of options for controlling her cancer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Opdivo™, the first immunotherapy option for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Immunotherapy treatments, administered intravenously, engage a person's own immune system to fight cancer cells when chemotherapy has proven ineffective.
"Charlotte responded beautifully to immunotherapy," said Dr. Jahanzeb. "Within six months, she was asking if she could return to the tennis court."
After a year of immunotherapy treatment, Charlotte began suffering extreme joint pain, one of immunotherapy's known side effects. It has been a year and half since Dr. Jahanzeb gave Charlotte a "treatment holiday," and she is feeling great.
"I'm just amazed that I'm here," says Charlotte. "I'm grateful for every day. I've been given the miracle of life."
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015 as a treatment option for cancer, immunotherapy works by breaking the "alliance" between cancer cells and a person's immune system, says Dr. Jahanzeb.
"In immunotherapy, antibodies break the friendly handshake and say to the immune system, 'Wake up. There is an enemy in your midst.' Your immune system starts attacking cancer cells without any help from chemicals," he says.
Clinical trials currently available at Sylvester are looking at ways to enhance the effects of immunotherapy. "We offer a whole suite of immunotherapy options," says Dr. Jahanzeb.
In general, cancers that are caused primarily by known carcinogens are the best candidates for immunotherapy, says Dr. Jahanzeb. These cancers include melanoma, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and bladder cancer.
However, immunotherapy is not recommended for patients with autoimmune disease, and it is a less effective treatment option for people with cancers caused by a single driver mutation.
"For those patients, we have targeted therapies, which are mostly pills targeted to that single mutation," says Dr. Jahanzeb. "Here at Sylvester we practice precision medicine, where we test for cancer-related mutations and match the right patient with the right drug based on our findings. We currently have 10 approved lung cancer pills that show better results and fewer side effects than chemotherapy."
ABOUT SYLVESTER COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is among the nation's leading cancer centers and South Florida's only Cancer Center of Excellence. A 2015 study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that cancer patients treated at Sylvester have a 10 percent higher chance of survival than those treated at nearly any other cancer center in the nation. Sylvester has a network of conveniently located outpatient treatment facilities in Miami, Coral Gables, Kendall, Hollywood, Plantation, Deerfield Beach and Coral Springs. For more information, visit Sylvester.org.
FOCUSING ON YOU
Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine is a series of healthcare-related stories airing regularly on CBS-4. For more stories like this one, visit YouTube channels for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and UHealth, University of Miami Health System.
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