NC colon cancer survivor credits clinical trial for giving him second chance at life

Health

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A North Carolina cancer survivor credits participating in a clinical trial for saving his life.

In 2012, doctors diagnosed Tom Vibert with colon cancer. Genetic testing revealed he has Lynch syndrome, which is the most common cause of hereditary colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“I already had family members pass away from it, I knew I was in trouble if something else didn’t happen. Chemo would shrink it, but it would come back,” said Vibert.

At the time of his cancer diagnosis, the recommended age to get a colonoscopy was 50 years old. Vibert was 49 years old.

“So, it wasn’t time to get a colonoscopy, you weren’t 50 yet. That has changed,” said Vibert.

The CDC now recommends people get a colonoscopy as early as 45 years old, and even earlier if they have a family history of colorectal cancer.

“If you’re a cancer patient the goal is survival and just know you can do anything,” Vibert said. “Cancer chose you so you’re going to fight it, so you better get as many teammates as possible on your side to get as many cards as possible in the game. Research provides a lot of them.”

Vibert spent years receiving chemotherapy, but the cancer kept coming back so he turned to his next option, participating in a clinical trial in the Triangle.

“I call it living in the sweet spot of cancer research here in North Carolina. We got Wake Forest, UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, and Duke Cancer Center,” said Vibert.

He became a candidate for a clinical trial at Duke Cancer Center. Researchers were studying the immunotherapy drug, Opdivo, to see if helped treat some patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

“After the first dose of the immunotherapy drug, it shrank the tumor more than any chemo I had ever done. It was amazing,” Vibert said, “And now there’s nothing to measure, it’s gone.”

The FDA has since approved Opdivo for the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Tom plans to celebrate his victory over cancer at the annual Victory Ride in Raleigh on Saturday. The ride raises money for the V Foundation, which supports local cancer research and those impacted by cancer.

“This ride means a lot to me because it’s the research and a lot of cancer survivors there that are promoting things. There’s even riders that are currently going through treatment,” said Vibert.

This will be Tom’s fourth year riding. He said it’s an emotional event and is a great way for everyone to come together to be in cancer’s face.

“I’m still riding for myself because I think if people see my riding then it’s a good thing,” he said.

The ride has something for everyone. There are routes from 10 to 100 miles as well as virtual rides.

There’s still time to register – just click here.

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