Cancer Diagnosis? Learn Why Second Opinions Matter

A doctor gave Scott 10 months to live—7 years ago
Friday, March 16, 2018 - 10:00am

“My wife, Brenda, is my rock. If I even thought about giving up, she wouldn’t hear of it,” Scott Bloomgren said with a chuckle. Saby George, MD, FACP, Associate Professor of Oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, wasn’t about to let Scott give up either.

Scott was first diagnosed with kidney cancer in January of 2011 at a doctor’s office in his hometown of Bradford, PA. After several months of getting in shape and losing weight, the pounds just kept coming off. His normal 210-pound build was down to 160 pounds. He knew something was wrong. “I kept demanding answers, and finally, after a PET scan, they found cancer in my kidney.”

Kidney cancer kills about 14,000 people every year. It is especially deadly when it is found in the late stages. By January 31, 2011, Scott was in the hospital having his kidney removed. At his 1-month follow-up appointment from surgery, he got the news they had found tumors in his lungs — that meant his cancer was at stage 4. He said, “When I heard it had spread, I knew it was time to go to the experts at Roswell Park.” When Scott arrived, he knew he was someplace special. “As soon as I walked in the door, I knew the care was going to be different. Everyone there is fighting the same fight, and the doctors are focused on one thing — curing cancer.”

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Scott’s renal cancer had now spread to both lungs, and after 3 months of being treated with the standard therapy of sunitinib, his lung tumors continued to grow. Dr. George let Scott know it wasn’t time to give up. He entered Scott into a clinical trial using an immunotherapy drug called BMS-936558 (which was later named nivolumab or Opdivo®). Dr. George was one of the researchers leading the nationwide clinical trial for this novel therapy. The drug helps your immune system fight cancer. Within 6 weeks of starting the drug, Scott’s tumors had begun to shrink — and they continued to shrink. Today, his tumors are more than 99% smaller than the size they were in 2011. Today, Opdivo is FDA-approved, but researchers are still studying the long-term outcomes, like Scott’s, to improve cancer treatment.

Scott still travels almost 2 hours every 3 weeks to Roswell Park to receive his IV treatment of Opdivo. In February, he celebrated his 100th infusion. “I know I am getting a level of care that isn’t available everywhere,” Scott said. “I have the confidence in everyone at Roswell. They are positive and hopeful, and they are fighting with me.”

Scott is now 60, and this year he is joining his wife, Brenda, and his children and grandchildren in The Ride for Roswell on June 23. The 12-mile bike ride is a reminder that Scott is never going to give up. He will fight cancer every day, just as he started to do 7 years ago.