(BPT) - While Lysa Buonanno was completing her training as a radiology technologist, she started experiencing intense back pain. Since her work often involved lifting and moving patients, she assumed that she had just pulled a muscle. But after a few doctor visits, the pain could no longer be ignored.
Lysa went for a chest X-ray and an EKG to try to figure out where her pain was coming from and how to relieve it. The test results were surprising. She knew right away that her chest X-rays were not normal.
“They were white and cloudy,” said Lysa, “And it actually looked like I had pneumonia.”
After further testing was conducted, the 40-year-old mother received a devastating diagnosis: she had lung cancer which had already metastasized, or spread, to her spine. The doctors realized that the pain she felt was caused by tumors both in her lungs and on her spine. The diagnosis came as a shock since she was a healthy, young woman with no known risk factors.
Following surgery to remove the tumor from her spine, Lysa underwent radiation and chemotherapy, which initially provided a good response in terms of tumor reduction.
Lysa was a natural researcher and she was determined to learn as much as she could about her lung cancer. She also connected with an online support group and learned a great deal from other lung cancer survivors, including about biomarker testing, which can help doctors determine if patients have specific genetic mutations within their tumors. Oftentimes, these mutations can help inform treatment decisions for lung cancer patients.
Lysa sought out a new doctor who ordered biomarker testing, which led to her diagnosis of ROS1-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Lysa’s doctor was able to start her on XALKORI® (crizotinib), the first biomarker-driven therapy approved for the treatment of ROS1-positive metastatic NSCLC, a rare form of lung cancer.
She has been on the medication since and continues to work part-time at an animal shelter. She enjoys walks with her dog, working in the garden and watching TV with her family.
Lysa is also active in the lung cancer community, serving as a mentor to other patients like herself through LUNGevity, as a spokesperson for American Lung Association in Nevada and as an active member of the ROS1ders patient advocacy group.
“I now spend most of my time speaking with newly diagnosed lung cancer patients or just being there with my family, making memories and enjoying the time I have with them,” said Lysa.
To learn more about biomarker testing for NSCLC and XALKORI®, visit XALKORI.com.
XALKORI is a prescription medicine used to treat people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread to other parts of the body and is caused by a defect in either a gene called ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) or a gene called ROS1. It is not known if XALKORI is safe and effective in children.
Important Safety Information
XALKORI® (crizotinib) may cause serious side effects, some of which may include:
Liver problems—XALKORI may cause life-threatening liver injury that may lead to death. Your healthcare provider should do blood tests to check your liver every 2 weeks during the first 2 months of treatment with XALKORI, then once a month. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following new or worsening symptoms:
Lung problems (pneumonitis)—XALKORI may cause life-threatening lung problems that may lead to death. Symptoms may be similar to those symptoms from lung cancer. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new or worsening symptoms, including:
- trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- cough with or without mucous
Heart problems—XALKORI may cause very slow, very fast, or abnormal heartbeats. Your healthcare provider may check your pulse rate and blood pressure during treatment with XALKORI. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you feel dizzy or faint or have abnormal heartbeats. Tell your healthcare provider if you take any heart or blood pressure medicines.
Severe vision problems—Vision problems are common with XALKORI. These problems usually happen within 1 week of starting treatment with XALKORI. Vision problems with XALKORI can be severe and may cause partial or complete loss of vision in one or both eyes. Your healthcare provider may hold or stop XALKORI and refer you to an eye specialist if you develop any vision problems during treatment with XALKORI. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new vision problems, loss of vision or any change in vision, including:
Before you take XALKORI, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions including if you:
- have liver or kidney problems
- have lung problems
- have heart problems, including a condition called long QT syndrome
- have vision or eye problems
- are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant. XALKORI can harm the unborn baby
- Females who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control during treatment with XALKORI and for at least 45 days after the final dose of XALKORI.
- Your healthcare provider will check to see if you are pregnant before starting treatment with XALKORI
- Males who have female partners who can become pregnant should use condoms during treatment with XALKORI and for at least 90 days after the final dose of XALKORI.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control methods that may be right for you.
- If you or your partner becomes pregnant, tell your healthcare provider right away.
- are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if XALKORI passes into the breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with XALKORI and for 45 days after the final dose. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed the baby during this time
Tell your healthcare provider about the medicines you take, including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Do not drink grapefruit juice, eat grapefruit or take supplements containing grapefruit extract during treatment with XALKORI. It may increase the amount of XALKORI in your blood to a harmful level.
The most common side effects of XALKORI include:
- vision problems
- nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- swelling of your hands, feet, face, and eyes
- increased liver function blood test results
- decreased appetite
- upper respiratory infection
- feeling of numbness or tingling in your arms or legs
XALKORI can cause changes in vision, dizziness, and tiredness. Do not drive or operate machinery if you have any of these symptoms.
Avoid spending prolonged time in sunlight. XALKORI can make your skin sensitive to the sun (photosensitivity), and you may burn more easily. You should use sunscreen and wear protective clothing that covers your skin to help protect against sunburn if you have to be in the sunlight during treatment with XALKORI.
XALKORI may cause fertility problems in females and males, which may affect the ability to have children. These are not all of the possible side effects of XALKORI.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.