Meteorologist Ben Terry shares good news from Houston amid cancer battle
“It is past time to ‘change the channel’ on this seemingly endless nightmare,” says Ben Terry
Houston, TX (KPLC) - The battle began again in April when it was discovered Ben’s cancer had returned for a second time. This time the prognosis looked grim. A new doctor, a second opinion and aggressive chemotherapy treatments resumed in early April 2022 with the hope his rare type of colorectal cancer would shrink.
You may remember his announcement back in April 2022 on 7News Sunrise when Ben shared his cancer had returned and would be stepping down from morning news duties to begin the fight for his life.
The goal of treatment is to extend his life while also maintaining the highest quality of life until the chemotherapy treatments eventually failed to be effective or side effects could no longer be tolerated.
“I was told by my new oncologist at M.D Anderson they had not seen a tumor of this type, which started in the colon but had grown extensively and into other parts of my gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. I also had a second tumor, which they referred to as a metastatic lesion in the right paracolic gutter of my abdomen. My chart said I was being treated for prolongation of life with no curative intent.”
Previously Ben was seeking treatment from doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital who were also perplexed with his type of rare cancer, therefore he sought a second opinion at M.D. Anderson. Not only had his cancer returned, it had returned aggressively and had spread worse than before in just a short six months from his previous surgery at Houston Methodist that had essentially removed all the cancer in September 2021.
“The medical teams at both Houston Methodist and M.D. Anderson said they had never seen a patient with my type of tumor composition and weren’t sure they would even be able to treat it successfully.” This time, a cure looked unobtainable.
Nearly all colorectal cancer tumors are comprised of adenocarcinoma, but Ben’s tumors are poorly differentiated with both adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma characteristics making it a one-of-a-kind “unicorn” to be discovered in that particular part of the body.
Radiation therapy was not an option as it had been previously given during his first stint with cancer about a year prior in the summer of 2021.
The only option left was chemotherapy, as surgery was also not advised due to the extensive spread and very high risk of recurrence a third time if attempted. The cancer was too extensive, very aggressive and non-responsive to any conventional chemotherapy drugs that had been given thus far. The medical oncologists were unsure anything else would work and told him to be prepared for this to eventually be a “life-omitting” cancer if chemo treatments failed to shrink the tumors.
After 8 cycles of the strongest regimen of chemotherapy for colorectal cancer were completed in August, it was discovered Terry’s tumors continued to grow significantly enough that this first line therapy was immediately halted.
“This was particularly disheartening, especially given I had endured 8 rounds of the strongest chemotherapy available for colon cancer in addition to receiving a monoclonal antibody therapy which claimed to work on my RAS wild-type of tumors.”
The first line therapy of drugs included a FOLFOXIRI regimen of oxaliplatin, fluorouracil 5FU, irinotecan and the monoclonal antibody drug cetuximab.
Failure of this first line therapy left Ben’s oncologist, Dr. Christine Parseghian, with only one other conventional chemotherapy regimen she felt his rare cancer might respond to. It was a combination of drugs that would target the squamous cell component of the tumors.
If this second line therapy failed, the doctor would be left with nothing else to do except refer him to the M.D. Anderson department of clinical trials.
This new regimen consisted of the two chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and carboplatin which are more typically prescribed for individuals with cervical, endometrial, thymoma, ovarian, and non-small cell lung cancers. There was nothing typical about Ben’s colorectal cancer, so it was thought it could show some sort of response due to the squamous cell carcinoma makeup of his tumors.
“At this point, we were literally just rolling the dice, playing games with different chemo cocktails not knowing what, if any, would even work. It was really all we had left to try, and I was all in because, as you know, I don’t give up that easy” says Ben. “It is past time to ‘change the channel’ on this seemingly endless nightmare.”
After just 4 cycles of this new chemotherapy which lasted from August through early November 2022, he returned to M.D. Anderson for the first CT scan to check if the cancer was shrinking.
“We were feeling hopeful. In October I was beginning to feel better overall and returned to work on-air from KPLC, fully suited up for the first time since April, even before receiving any positive news whether the new treatment was working or not. I really just wanted to get out of the house.”
Then came the really good news! His scans on November 3, 2022 showed significant shrinking of the tumors, some by as much as 50-75% in size. Tumor markers in the blood were also a fraction of what they were at their highest levels back in the summer. The tumor marker in his blood called CEA, or carcinoembryonic antigen, had dropped from a high of 80 in the summer to 8.3 on November 3rd. Normally this number should be 0 to 3 in a normal person, so this was also great news!
His doctors were amazed! It seemed they found the magic bullet to target his rare type of cancer.
Ben gives all the glory to God and continues to ask for your prayers as the road to a cure is still long from over, but thankfully his current prognosis does not appear to be as grim. He will continue with several more rounds of chemotherapy through 2023 with the possibility of surgery options in the future.
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