Bill Gardner was enjoying retirement and life with the grandkids, when he was diagnosed with late stage 3 lung cancer.

Bill Gardner, lung cancer survivor says, "I said give it to me straight up, I want to know how long. He said 18-20 months."

That was five years ago, but thanks to groundbreaking clinical trials now offered to patients in the Tennessee Valley, Bill has a second chance at life, just as things looked very bleak when chemo and radiation were no longer working.

Gardner says, "That begin to fail and it had metastasized into my brain and they did more radiation, used cyber knife and the trial opened up and I fit the profile."

Channel 3 spoke to oncologist Dr. Davey Daniel from CHI Memorial who is treating Bill.

Dr. Davey Daniel says, "This was the checkmate trial who looked at patients who has chemotherapy, but failed and progressed after that. Mr. Gardner's case progressed in the brain and lung."

With the original clinical trial, Bill was given the drug Nivolumab which has now been approved by the FDA. It's designed to stimulate the patient's immune system to attack the cancer.

Dr. Daniel says, "What we have seen is that patients are more likely to be in remission a year after treatment ended compared to those who were observed."

Dr. Daniel says immunotherapy could soon be the new standard of care for lung cancer patients who are often diagnosed after their disease has spread, prompting doctors to use it as a first line of treatment for lung cancer.

Dr. Daniel says, "It's rare to have patients who are alive two years later and three years later. I have very few patients who are alive after developing metastatic disease."

Clinical Trial Results show the following:

  • There was a 27% reduced chance of dying with Nivolumab compared to chemotherapy
  • Half of patients who used the drug were still alive at just over 12 months compared with almost 9 and half months for those who received chemotherapy

Dr. Daniel says these drugs are making incredible strides when it comes to giving patients like Bill hope and increasing life expectancy.

Gardner says, "It's kept my quality of life in an excellent form. I can't complain, I've got my grandkids and that's pretty much my life now is watching grandkids."

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