When Terry Gallant, 71, of El Cajon received a Stage 4 Lymphoma cancer diagnosis, he had tumors in his body so large that he couldn't sleep on his side.
"I had 11 pounds of cancer in my body," he said Monday from his home. "I was told then I had probably a month to live."
Sixteen years later, Gallant is in remission and feeling better than he has in decades.
"I've had quite a few doctors say, 'what did you do? I've never seen such a successful treatment!"
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Gallant went to Dr. Robert Nagourney, the founder of the Nagourney Cancer Institute in Long Beach.
The oncologist uses a different approach to treatment, giving each patient a unique combination of chemotherapy drugs based on what kills their cancer tissue in a laboratory setting.
By treating the cells outside of the body first, he said he can determine which medications will work best by the time they are given to the patient.
"We thought of cancer as cells that grow too rapidly," said Nagourney. "It turns out that cancer is really a disease of cell survival. You don't want to stop them from growing, you have to kill them."
Using a biopsy of Gallant's tumor from his neck, lab tests allowed Nagourney to see what medications would kill it the quickest.
"I went from having 11 pounds of cancer to molecularly unfindable in my body in three very mild chemo treatments," said Gallant. "They were so mild I barely felt any side effects."
Local doctors call Gallant a miracle, but Nagourney said his approach has had promising results on others.
"We're one of the first to make this work," said Nagourney. "We've doubled the response rates and added 44 percent to the one-year survival in patients using available medications."
Nagourney is hopeful that this method could be the cure to all types of cancer.
"Cancer patients have to realize when they get a diagnosis it isn't a death sentence," said Nagourney. "It's a call to action."