CLEVELAND — Almost all thyroid cancer patients are cured if it’s caught early.
But for those with medullary thyroid cancer, a rare form of the disease, there have been few effective options.
One man has become the first in the country to be treated with a life-saving drug, which was at first, was prescribed only for adults.
20-year old Tanner Noble looks healthy and fit but for five of the last six years, he’s been fighting for his life.
The first sign of sickness was rapid weight loss during his freshman year football season.
“The beginning of the season, I was about 130 and by about halfway, i was already at 115.”
Doctors couldn’t find the cause.
After a year of specialists and tests, doctors finally found cancer that had spread.
“It was in his lungs; it was in his spine. it was in his femur bone; it was in the liver,” recalled Tanner’s mother Demetra.
Tanner had stage four medullary thyroid cancer.
Doctors tried every treatment available but nothing worked.
“It was going to be hospice,” said Cleveland Clinic oncologist Dr. Peter Anderson.
But then, news of a new treatment, approved for use in teenagers and adults, called RETEVMO.
It controls cancer with a specific gene mutation.
“If you can flip that switch off then the cancer, which is addicted to this particular mutation, all of a sudden can’t grow,” said Dr. Anderson.
Dr. Andersen used RETEVMO Tanner, who was seventeen at the time.
RETEVMO or selpercatinib, a RET specific TKI, received accelerated approval by the FDA in May 2020 for adults and children aged 12 years or older for advanced or metastatic RET MTC and who require systemic therapy.
Within a few treatments, Tanner’s tumors began to shrink.
“My goal was to finish high school and at least get out of high school. and I just kept pushing forward for that.”
He reached that goal and more.
Tanner was a featured speaker at his graduation.
More than a year later, cancer no longer dominates every day of the Nobles’ lives.
“This is what you hope for when a child has cancer,” said Demetra Nobel.
“We don’t think about those things anymore.”
Tanner is now a sophomore at Kent State University in Ohio, majoring in psychology.
RETEVMO was approved in May 2020 for people with non-small cell lung cancer, and two types of thyroid cancer with specific gene mutations, including medullary thyroid cancer.
Tanner will need to be on RETEVMO for the rest of his life to keep the cancer at bay.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at [email protected] or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at [email protected].