Immunotherapy Patient Perspectives

October 7, 2021, 2:25 pm -
3:20 pm
Become an empowered self-advocate!

Watch On Demand

Session Description

Hear from four cancer veterans about their diagnosis and treatment journeys, immunotherapy, clinical trials, and survivorship. These patient advocates will speak openly about side effects and share helpful tips for communicating with your health care team. They will provide practical information to help you advocate for yourself or a loved one affected by cancer so that you can make informed decisions about your treatment plan. The panel will be moderated by CRI ImmunoAdvocate Stephen Estrada, followed by a live Q&A session.


Gordon Levine

Colon Cancer Veteran

In November 2014, Gordon learned that he had a malignant tumor in his colon. Over the next four years, Gordon underwent surgery and chemotherapy, which put him into two two-year remissions. In early 2018, the cancer came back again, this time having also spread to the abdomen, liver, lung, and bone. Gordon enrolled in a clinical trial where he received pembrolizumab (Keytruda®). While the treatment showed early promise, CT scans later that year indicated tumor growth. Having exhausted his available treatment options in Montreal, Gordon sought a second opinion at UCSD Moores Cancer Center in San Diego. Genetic testing indicated that Gordon might respond to treatment with a combination of the immunotherapies nivolumab (Opdivo®) and ipilimumab (Yervoy®). After three rounds of treatment, a CT scan showed substantial reduction in the cancer. As a result of the immunotherapy combination, Gordon was able to reduce his pain medication and live an active life again. Treatment ended in the summer of 2020, having resulted in the eradication of all of the cancer save for a resistant area in the sigmoid colon. In the spring of 2021, Gordon underwent surgery to remove the remaining disease and create a permanent ostomy. His most recent scan confirmed no evidence of disease – an incredible accomplishment after a very long journey.

Mike Blevins

Kidney Cancer Veteran

In 2019, Mike Blevins felt a deep, sharp pain in his side and went to a nearby hospital, where he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He called his daughter, a surgical tech, who told him to get a second opinion. The second doctor confirmed the diagnosis, found that the cancer had metastasized, and recommended a clinical trial combining two immunotherapies: ipilimumab (Yervoy®) and nivolumab (Opdivo®). After another conversation with his family, Mike decided to enroll and, over the course of 10 months, the tumor shrank from 7.8cm to just about 3cm. After two years of stability, the tumors started to grow again and he began a new regimen combining a different immunotherapy, pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), with chemotherapy. Recently retired, Mike now enjoys time with his kids and grandchildren, grateful to his family for their lifesaving advice and support along the way. He is happy to share his immunotherapy experience as a CRI ImmunoAdvocate.

Sonia Su

Lymphoma Veteran

Sonia was diagnosed with primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma at age 24. She underwent six cycles of R-CHOP chemotherapy starting in January 2018. She relapsed a few months later and then received four cycles of R-ICE chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant. When her second treatment failed to keep Sonia in remission, she underwent CAR T cell therapy in March 2019 and has been in remission since. Inspired by her personal journey, she is now leading her own cancer nonprofit, Kits to Heart, to bring smiles and solidarity to those affected by cancer. She recently joined our team of CRI ImmunoAdvocates.


Stephen Estrada

Colorectal Cancer Veteran

In 2014, at 28 years old, Stephen Estrada was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and told he had a 1 percent chance of living for the next five years. With this diagnosis came the news that he has a genetic condition known as Lynch Syndrome, an inherited mutation of the mismatch repair DNA pathway that significantly increased his risk for several types of cancer at an early age. He underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and a NanoKnife procedure, which ultimately failed. At this point, Stephen worked with his oncologist to research other treatment options for colorectal cancer patients with Lynch Syndrome. He enrolled in a phase 1 clinical trial combining chemotherapy with the immunotherapy atezolizumab (TECENTRIQ®). Since beginning immunotherapy over seven years ago, his disease has remained stable. Stephen has married, bought a home, and become an advocate for fellow cancer patients as well as a CRI ImmunoAdvocate.

On-Demand Now Available

We are excited to announce that videos from our 2021 Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit are now available to view on demand.

The on-demand videos can be found on each session page from the agenda.