Prostate cancer survivor diagnosed with rare form of stomach cancer quickly metastasized to the liver
John Currado’s medical prostate team, Dr. Linehan and Dr. Wilson, whom treated John for prostate cancer, insisted he come directly to the hospital to be evaluated by Dr. Bilchik, Director of Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Tumor Center of Excellence, and Chief of General Surgery at Saint John’s Health Center, after examining his imaging and tests.
Why is Stomach Cancer Difficult to Detect?
Stomach cancers are often linked to other underlying conditions and go undiagnosed. Thereby, early detection is nearly impossible. When stomach cancers are diagnosed, they are in an advanced stage already.1 Some symptoms of stomach cancer have included; difficulty swallowing, weight loss, indigestion, feeling full after eating very little, feeling sick, tiredness due to anemia, and obesity.2 Diagnosis of stomach cancer is either done by biopsy, or imaging scans.
On a trip to San Francisco with his wife, John awoke to a massive wave of fatigue he never experienced in his life. He knew something was terribly awry–and it was, his body was becoming anemic. Later, it was discovered, John’s weight was the underlying risk factor, which accelerated his stomach cancer.
Within a day, John Currado was diagnosed with a stage-4 stomach cancer called gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), and was placed on a treatment plan in late 2017.
Listen to John Currado’s Cancer Story
What is a GIST?
GISTs are rare stomach cancers that start in specialized nerve cells located in the wall of your digestive system, or the connective tissues in the stomach wall. A specific change in one of these cells, which control the movement of food through intestines, gives rise to a GIST.3,4
In the United States, the number of cases diagnosed with a GIST ranges from about 4,000 to 6,000.4
How are GISTs Treated?
GLEEVAC, also known as Imatinib, is an oral medication that controls GIST recurrence, helps to shrink their tumor sizes, and is the first line of treatment in targeted therapy when surgery is not available. “Targeted therapy uses drugs to identify and attack specific cancer cells,” and is not the same as chemotherapy.3,4
Due to how large the tumors were in the stomach and liver, John was placed on GLEEVAK until the tumors were determined small enough to be operable–a solution recognized as neoadjuvant.5
After 11 months of taking oral medication daily, the tumors in John’s liver and stomach shrunk enough to be operable. In November 2018, John had 2 surgeries in a seven-and-a-half-hour period, where Dr. Bilchik removed 15 percent of his stomach, and the right lobe of his liver along with the 7 pound tumor in it. Dr. Bilchik, and his team of fellows, also surgically peeled several tumors from his vena cava. The vena cava are two main arteries in the body that send depleted oxygenated blood back to the heart.5 After an interval of time, his liver rejuvenated.
John spent a week in the hospital recovering, having experienced no pain post-surgery. Today, John and his wife live comfortably in Lancaster, California, and return to the health center for his annual check-up. John is still taking GLEEVAC.
- What Is Stomach Cancer? | Types of Stomach (Gastric) Cancer
- Risks and causes of stomach cancer | Cancer Research UK
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) – Overview – Mayo Clinic
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors | Treatment Update GIST | CancerCare
- Targeted Drug Therapy for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (cancer.org)
- vena cava | anatomy | Britannica