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Discovery: Cindy Lersten

Cindy Lersten has spent more than a decade of her 50 years battling cancer. Her journey began in 2001, when she was diagnosed with melanoma. The cancer stayed in check for years—until 2012, when it returned and began to spread. “I thought that was it,” recalls Lersten, a mother of four. “I thought my life was over.” She traveled to another hospital for immunotherapy. The treatments worked for a time, but in 2017, it came back. She then came to the Kimmel Cancer Center for additional treatment. New studies of combined immunotherapies— trials that tested two, and sometimes even three, different drugs had begun. She participated in a clinical trial of one of these immunotherapy combinations and also opted for surgery. Currently, there is no evidence of cancer. “The first treatment bought me time so that when my cancer came back, there were new options for me,” says Lersten. The combination of surgery and new drugs are holding her cancer at bay once more. It is working so well for Lersten that she was healthy enough to climb Mt. Fuji with her 15-year-old son. “These drugs gave me renewed hope,” she says.

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