Young Montana Man with Stage 4 Colon Cancer Shares Story of Pursuit for Personalized Cancer Treatment; Andrew Matney Travels Country with Hope of Saving Lives

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Doctors Work to Save Bozeman Man’s Life as Family Launches Worldwide Online Support System With Goal of Enrolling Matney into Clinical Trial to Help Change Future of Cancer Treatment via Advanced Personalized Cancer Treatments

Montana, Colorado and New York’s The Mount Sinai Hospital Doctors Work to Save Bozeman Man’s Life; 35-Year-Old Andrew Matney Aims to Enroll in Clinical Trial and Help Change Future of Cancer Treatment

I feel this tremendous sense of gratitude for each moment. That is the gift of cancer. It really brings you into the present.

“I feel this tremendous sense of gratitude for each moment. That is the gift of cancer. It really brings you into the present,” says Andrew Matney.

Matney was diagnosed with stage 4-colon cancer when he was 33 and given 3 weeks to live. Since then, he has undergone 19 rounds of chemotherapy and 3 high-risk surgeries, which have extended his life by nearly two years. In August of 2013, after having consistent stomach pain, Andrew went into surgery to have his gallbladder removed. He awoke from surgery to learn his gallbladder, appendix and 5-feet of his colon had been removed, and that he was living with a colostomy bag and stage 4-colon cancer. Today, at age 35, Andrew is making it his life’s mission to pursue advanced cancer treatment beyond the “standard of care,” which is designed to extend a patient’s life, not necessarily save it. Matney has even traveled 2,194 miles from Bozeman, Montana to New York for a clinical trial consultation at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

“I realize the standard of care may not save my life as there is currently no cure for cancer,” says Andrew Matney. “I want to live and I want to give hope to others that there may be a cure in our lifetime. By making myself available for advanced clinical trials, I aim to save my life and help others through critical research. In the best case scenario, I could be patient zero for the cure to cancer.”

While no specific clinical trial has been identified yet as a perfect match for Andrew, doctors at The Mount Sinai Hospital say Andrew is the perfect candidate to seek out clinical trial opportunities, as he is young and otherwise in good health.

"Andrew was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at a very young age and has undergone three surgeries and nearly 18 months of chemotherapy within the span of the past 2 years,” said Dr. Celina Ang, Assistant Professor, Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.“At the time of our consultation I was amazed at how remarkably well he looked and the fact that he has been extremely functional despite having undergone such intense treatment. Individuals like Andrew who maintain an excellent performance status can withstand more aggressive therapy and are great candidates for clinical trials which can expand the repertory of treatment options available to them. It is important to note, though, that however intriguing and novel a clinical trial concept might seem, it is still investigational and should not be considered a replacement for established lines of therapy for metastatic colon cancer."

Using the latest genomics research, investigators at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are looking at ways to create personalized treatment for cancer patients. Matney hopes that this research may one day help with his cancer.

“Because cancer mutates, it does not make sense that the standard drug for treating colon cancer patients, FOLFOX (Folinic Acid, Fluorouracil and Oxaliplatin), should be given to each colon cancer patient for the treatment of their cancer. To treat a dynamic problem, we need a tailored solution. I believe the reason we have not found a cure for cancer is because the cancer cells are often changing or mutating in the patient’s body, and we are ignoring the patient’s unique cellular structure. What we are currently doing is a one-size-fits-all and it’s working to an extent. However, too many lives have been compromised because we have not yet cracked the code on this mystery disease. But I believe we are well on our way, and that genomics treatment is a big piece of the puzzle,” states Andrew Matney.

Andrew and his girlfriend/partner, Alexis Brill, inquired about a specific clinical trial at Mount Sinai and traveled to New York in April 2015 to meet with doctors after reading about this cutting-edge trial in Esquire magazine. Alexis grew up knowing the power of media, as her father is veteran Montana broadcaster/weather reporter and radio DJ, Steve Brill. Alexis and Andrew hope to harness the power of media today to help save Andrew’s life and give hope to countless others who are facing cancer.

“Coming from a family that is in the media and arts, I know how media can impact lives. I believe everyone has a story to tell and journalists can truly effect change in this world by telling those stories,” says Alexis Brill.

Family played another critical role in Andrew’s treatment path. His sister, Dr. Kathryn Matney, MD, a resident pathologist at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora connected Andrew with a team of doctors who performed his third and critical, life-extending surgery. Doctors credit the high-risk Heated Intra Peritoneal Chemotherapy, or HIPEC surgery, and additional pre and post surgery rounds of chemotherapy, at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital with oncologist Dr. Kenneth May, with extending his lifespan. He now has a chance of surviving long enough to enroll in a clinical trial at Mount Sinai or another institution as soon as a clinical trial match is found.

"Given what we've learned about the genetic diversity of cancer and that even within one type of cancer, like colonic adenocarcinoma, are innumerable genetically distinct diseases. It's not surprising that tailored genomics treatment is undoubtedly the future of cancer treatment. There will be a time when we look back on current chemotherapy regimens and see how blunt and imprecise they are. Cancer therapy is in the middle of a sea change and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is leading the way, " says University of Colorado Hospital Kathryn Matney, MD.

Pre-diagnosis, Andrew was living in Dallas, Texas, working in development at his dad’s engineering firm, Matney-Frantz Engineering, and running marathons and half marathons. Post-diagnosis, Andrew moved back home to Bozeman to live with his parents so they could oversee his care. Andrew is currently pursuing his second master’s degree (His undergraduate degree is in Psychology and his masters degree is in Business) in counseling at Montana State University to become a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC). When he is not in treatment, he is interning at his mom’s counseling practice in Bozeman, the nCenter. His goal is to open an nCenter office in Billings and specialize in marriage and family counseling and neurofeedback to help people in need. However, recently, he had to take a semester off to recover after his 3rd surgery.

“Now, three months post-surgery, I’m feeling well enough to continue my education and am currently enrolled and taking classes. My anticipated graduation date is spring of 2017,” says Matney. “I’m learning to be present when I’m down, sick or scared. I’m focusing on not waiting or thinking that when this is over, then I can live. My life is now and I am not only pursuing advanced cancer treatment, I’m pursuing my education and career dreams and have even fallen in love. I met my girlfriend Alexis when I was in remission, and she has been by my side through this journey. Before I had cancer, I didn't want to have children. Now, I can't wait to start a family. I am so grateful for the love and support I receive from Alexis, my family, and my friends as well as complete strangers. They help me cope, and they are helping me beat cancer.”

Andrew is still in treatment and has been fighting stage 4-colon cancer for nearly two years. His next post-chemotherapy CAT scan is scheduled for July 31st to see if the cancer has metastasized in his body. He currently has no “detectable” cancer, but doctors believe it will likely come back as it has in the past and as it often does for stage four colon cancer patients. He is also doing everything in his own power to keep the cancer at bay, through nutrition, frequent medical visits and alternative wellness treatments. Andrew is exploring various clinical trials in addition to the trials at Mount Sinai.

To help make a clinical trial a possibility for Andrew, his family has set up a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $31,673. Despite having medical insurance, Andrew says he has exhausted his resources and is asking for help getting to New York or the appropriate institute for a clinical trial and paying down some of his medical expenses. More information on Andrew’s financial needs, including a specific cost breakout, can be found on the fundraising page.

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