Breast Cancer Drug Saves Stomach Cancer Patient

MSU Professor Randy Hillard was told he had 11 months to live.

MGN Online

"So of course my first reaction was, 'I'm dead,'" Hillard said.

Three years ago, Professor Randy Hillard didn't think he'd still be working in the psychiatry department at Michigan State University.

He didn't even think he'd be alive today.

Hillard was diagnosed in December 2010 with Stage 4 metastatic stomach cancer.

"At that point, the prognosis was 11 months survival without treatment, and 13 months of survival with treatment," Hillard said. "So of course my first reaction was, 'I'm dead.'"

He debated even trying to fight the cancer at all.

"What really got me to get treatment is that a new treatment had come out just one month before I was diagnosed, which was Herceptin," said Hillard.

Herceptin was developed to treat breast cancer. Research on the drug was initially funded by the American Cancer Society.

"Dr. Hillard's story is a perfect example of the research crossover," said Cassy Puskala, a community representative for the American Cancer Society. "It's a perfect example of the progress that we've made over the last hundred years. It's very inspiring for someone who works at the American Cancer Society. It just gives me goosebumps when I think about what that potential is."

Professor Hillard will tell you that potential is limitless.

"We're kind of in uncharted territory here because prior to Herceptin, there was essentially nobody who had survived as long as I have with no symptoms," Hillard said.

Hillard did have most of his stomach removed, but says he can eat pretty much whatever he wants.

The results of his last gastroscopy show he has no evidence of disease. He still gets infusions of Herceptin.

"Much to my amazement, here I am," Hillard said. "It's almost three years later, I'm alive, I'm well."

Along with his new outlook on life, Hillard is getting students and staff involved in the fight, through Campus Cancer Champions at MSU. He is also studying cancer research, hoping new drugs that can cross cancer barriers will save lives.

"I was quite fortunate in that my cancer-causing gene was the target of the first one of these to come out," said Hillard. "But I think over the next few years, we're going to see a lot more medications like this."


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