Have you seen an increase in immunotherapy research in recent years?
Yes. Stand Up to Cancer now has a dream team in Immunology. Several companies are currently in a race to develop one particular immunotherapy that several university professors had a hand in. Most major universities are doing research. But, for example, a contact of mine is the Vice Chair of Neurosurgery at UCLA.
In some cases, she's been able to bring complete, lasting remissions in otherwise incurable grade IV brain cancer with an immunotherapeutic vaccine. That's been since 2003 and it's only now, 11 years later, going into a phase 3 trial. As part of compassionate use reform, the Right to Try movement is also succeeding at a state level.
How do you think signing the petition will help?
The petition is to reorient the primary direction of cancer research, treatment and funding to immunotherapy, and immunotherapeutic vaccines in particular. They invariably have none of the serious side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, nor secondary cancers like ABC’s broadcaster Robin Roberts had.
They can eliminate the need for most cancer surgeries, and there's good evidence that they can prevent recurrence because of immune-system memory. The media has reported isolated cures and studies. By reporting in depth on it, they can begin ushering in this new era within years instead of decades.
Even with 30 stars and professors having signed, the media tends to pay attention to petitions with large numbers. A surge in signing and Facebook sharing can get us there.
What advice do you have for others who are facing a similar cancer diagnosis?
I could offer general advice, but we found we needed a detailed guide. So many unfamiliar things are thrown at you so quickly. Briggs immediately began making notes to write a book to help other patients and caregivers.