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Immunotherapy giving hope in fight against aggressive breast cancer

Posted at 6:00 PM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-28 20:04:05-05

GOODYEAR, AZ — Small talk with Meghan Stewart often leads to conversations about her two kids, 8-year-old Max and 9-year-old Madison.

"They are so proud of me," Stewart said. "Whenever I have breakdowns, which I do I'm not perfect, my daughter will come up to me and say mom you're a fighter. You got this. Don't worry about it; we're all in this together."

In 2017, doctors diagnosed the now 35-year-old with stage 4 metaplastic breast cancer. A rare form of the disease, accounting for less than one percent of breast cancer patients, according to the National Institute of Health.

Stewart said the disease spread to her spine, ribs, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Time was not on her side. When chemotherapy did not wipe it all out, doctors at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Goodyear suggested a breakthrough treatment called immunotherapy. However, it is not yet FDA approved for her type of cancer.

"I was terrified. At the same time, I was like yeah let's do this. Who doesn't want to be the pioneer, the trailblazer?" she said.

Immunotherapy uses the body's own immune cells to recognize cancer cells and attack them. For Stewart, the infusions last 30 minutes. She flies from Florida to Phoenix every three weeks.

"With immunotherapy, I get the infusion, and that's it. I have no side effects whatsoever. My joints hurt a little bit, but I have energy, and I feel great," Stewart said.

Stewart started the treatments in October. This week, her second set of scans came back showing the treatment is working. She said the cancer is now only found in her lungs and a couple of spots in her bones. She said it's a little surreal knowing she is part of what appears to be a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

"There are a lot of eyes on me right now, so far so good," she smiled.

Because immunotherapy is not yet FDA approved to treat metaplastic breast cancer, it is not available on the market for this particular illness. However, it is approved for certain lung and skin cancers.

You can follow Meghan's journey on YouTube.