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As an integral part of his own team, Greg and his family worked together with experts at the Mass General Hospital Cancer Center to develop a treatment plan that was specifically tailored to his cancer's genetic mutation.
Greg’s story is amazing in many ways. Learn about his journey from lung cancer diagnosis through treatment, and find out what his life is like now.
What was an experimental idea 12 years ago is now the standard of care for patients with Greg's type of genetic mutation.
Athletic. Healthy eater. Non-smoker. In 2004, Greg’s lifestyle profile read like every doctor’s recommendation for good health. When he developed a respiratory ailment that lingered, Greg and his doctors were stunned to learn that the model patient had stage-4 lung cancer.
When Greg was diagnosed, his doctors at the Mass General Hospital Cancer Center were having success identifying and treating a particular type of lung cancer mutation: EGFR. Greg’s lung cancer tested positive for the EGFR mutation, and he became the first patient at Mass General enrolled in the first ever clinical trial to target his mutation as a first line of therapy.
He began taking a medicine designed to attack the mutation in his tumor that was driving his cancer. “I didn’t have any hesitancy about starting a clinical trial,” said Greg. “I guess I just had so much confidence in Mass General and in my doctors that I believed it had to be the best option.”
"I was the first patient enrolled in the initial EGFR-targeted therapy clinical trial at Mass General. I didn’t have any hesitancy about starting a clinical trial because I had so much confidence in Mass General and in my team that I believed it had to be the best option.”
“Greg is an ongoing inspiration to me. He’s rafted down the Colorado River, and plays in a band. Knowing that I had a part in making these every day experiences possible motivates me to work relentlessly to develop more targeted therapies.”
“Every time I see Greg, he looks so good and is always in a good mood. It’s people like Greg that give me hope that, perhaps one day, there will be a cure for cancer. His positive attitude and his patience make it hard to forget him."
“Greg always had a broad smile on his face that complimented his great sense of humor. I remember him as a courteous and courageous person who was not afraid of a blood draw – that is as long as I promised to use the baby needle!”
“I love building relationships with patients and take pride in collaborating with them to create treatment schedules that work for their daily lives. Over the years, Greg and I have become great friends and I am honored to be a part of his team.”
“I’ve had the pleasure of guiding Greg through many of his follow-up imaging studies. Testing exams can be an overwhelming experience for many patients, but Greg has always been agreeable and upbeat. It’s been wonderful to be part of such a positive outcome.”
Greg’s optimism paid off. Within days of starting the trial, his chronic cough and fatigue began to ease. More importantly, the tumors in both of his lungs began shrinking. Literally and figuratively, Greg was able to breathe easy again.
“My future was totally unknown before,” Greg notes. “It still has an element of the unknown, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am. It has not inhibited me from enjoying the things I love in life and as long as it can continue, it will be a perfect outcome."
How is Greg doing now, in 2016?
"[My wife Janet and I] have done quite a bit of traveling. Last year we went to England and Scotland. This year in April we traveled to Greece with my brother and sister-in-law. We drove to my family's village on the Peloponnese peninsula and found some second cousins. We had a wonderful visit with them and their families. Santorini was magical. We [also] spent several days in Rome and Florence before taking the train to Isernia where Janet's niece lives. All in all a great European trip. In mid-August, we rented a small travel trailer and drove out to South Dakota and Wyoming. We spent time in Wyoming with a cousin and then a couple of days in beautiful Custer State Park before heading home."
"I still go to the gym as much as I can. I'm playing golf occasionally and am racing my go kart when the schedule permits. The band is doing well. It's the Greg Vrettos Trio. We've played for some benefit galas and wedding receptions and cocktail hours. We play occasionally for community affairs and I still regularly play solo for senior living communities in the area."
"Healthwise, I've just switched from Iressa to Tagrisso, the targeted combination drug for EGFR and the T790 resistance gene. I've been on Tagrisso for a month and so far things seem good. I've seen improvement in symptoms and have seen no side effects."
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