Valley woman beating cancer with new drug

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PHOENIX -- “I knew something was wrong because I had lumps in my neck,” Beverly Knudson said.

Those lumps ended up being non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and for the next two years, life for Knudson was turned upside down.
 
“The worst part of cancer is just hearing the doctor say you have cancer,” Knudson said.

She quickly turned her fear into determination to survive. Knudson went to Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Western Regional Medical Center where she became the first patient there to try the FDA-approved drug called Zevalin.

Some people call it "liquid radiation."

“It's designed to hone in on a specific type of cell,” Dr. Joel Granick explained. “It has been manufactured to be attached to a radioactive substance and it's the radioactivity that actually does the cell kill.”

Granick is a medical oncologist at CTCA. He said Zevalin is injected over several days and even comes in a special box because it's radioactive.

‘We have a special room where we give all radioactive pharmaceuticals,” Granick said. “They stay in that particular room and each day a technician goes in and measures the radioactivity level and then they are only released from that room when they're safe.”

There can be side effects with Zevalin, but Knudson was willing to risk.

"They could put this stuff in my veins because the alternative was that or death,” Knudson said.

“The majority of patients do well with it and recover the [bone] marrow and have a good life, but there are those exceptions,” Granick said.

Since getting the treatment back in October, Knudson's last PET scan looked promising.

“In less than six months, I went from Stage IV to remission,” Knudson said.
 
It's a sign of hope she wants to give to other cancer patients.

“I'm smiling again,” Knudson said. “I'm back to my normal weight. I'm back working and I'm living life.”

Zevalin isn't for everyone battling this type of cancer.

For more information about Cancer Treatment Centers of America log onto www.cancercenter.com/western-hospital.cfm.