Best Life: New drug controls rare cancers with gene mutation

Updated: Sep. 16, 2020 at 8:14 AM CDT
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WARREN, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month; 90% of all patients are cured if it’s caught early. But for those with medullary thyroid cancer, a rare form of the disease, there have been few effective options. Now, introducing the first young man in the country who is being treated with a life-saving drug, which was at first, prescribed for adults only.

Twenty-year-old Tanner Noble looks healthy and fit teeing off with his mom Demetra and dad, Robert. But for five of the last six years, Tanner has been fighting for his life. The first sign of sickness was rapid weight loss during his freshman year of football season.

“The beginning of the season, I was about 130 and by about halfway, I was already at 115,” Tanner recalled.

Doctors couldn’t find the cause. After a year of specialists and tests, doctors finally found cancer that had spread.

“It was in his lungs; it was in his spine. It was in his femur bone; it was in the liver,” Demetra explained.

Tanner had stage four medullary thyroid cancer. Doctors tried every treatment available. Nothing worked. They were out of options and Tanner was running out of time.

“It was going to be hospice,” said Peter Anderson, MD, an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

But then, news of a new treatment approved for use in teenagers and adults, called RETEVMO. It controls cancer with a specific gene mutation.

“If you can flip that switch off then the cancer, which is addicted to this particular mutation, all of a sudden can’t grow,” clarified Dr. Anderson.

Dr. Andersen used RETEVMO on Tanner, who was 17. Within a few treatments, Tanner’s tumors began to shrink.

“My goal was to finish high school and at least get out of high school. And I just kept pushing forward for that,” said Tanner.

Tanner was a featured speaker at his graduation. More than a year later, cancer no longer dominates every day of the Nobles' lives.

“This is what you hope for when a child has cancer. We don’t think about those things anymore,” Demetra concluded.

Tanner is now a sophomore at Kent State in Ohio, majoring in psychology. RETEVMO was approved in May for people with non-small cell lung cancer, and two types of thyroid cancer with specific gene mutations, including medullary thyroid cancer. Tanner will need to be on RETEVMO for the rest of his life to keep the cancer at bay.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor. Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.