Rikki Rockett had been originally treated cancer in Los Angeles, where he lives. Like many cancer patients he received radiation and chemotherapy. It worked temporarily, but soon the cancer appeared to be returning.
"I just didn't feel right," Rockett said in a Wednesday interview. "This should be getting better, not worse. I should be eating better, I should be swallowing better -- what the hell's going on?"
Last February he went to UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, where cancer immune therapy is a major emphasis. A scan revealed that his original tumor was still there, along with signs of more trouble.
"The lymph nodes on my right side lit up, the lymph nodes on my left side lit up, and on the side of my tongue there was stuff."
Rockett was faced with a number of undesirable options -- including a total removal of his tongue. Rockett's chemotherapy physician suggested he apply for a clinical trial of cancer immunotherapy at UCSD. He was judged a suitable candidate for the treatment including a "checkpoint inhibitor," a drug that removes a defense cancers use against the immune system.
Rockett said he learned of his acceptance on March 1 and started the treatment. Now Rockett's tumor is nearly gone and in two weeks, he's due for another exam, and hopes it will be eradicated.
Rockett recorded a video which can be seen on The San Diego Union-Tribune
web site discussing his experience after being diagnosed with cancer of the tongue last summer.
"For any of us that's ever gone through cancer, we know how scary it can be, and when you're going through a new type of treatment, that's even scarier. Immunotherapy is largely unknown to the public. We're hearing about it now more and more over time - articles in newspapers and magazines - but there wasn't a lot of information when I made the decision to actually do it, and I was very nervous (...) I've been one of the very lucky people that have responded very well to immunotherapy, and with any luck, I will be completely rid of cancer. My goal is to help people make the decision to try immunotherapy, because the side effects are so much less, and you feel so much better doing it, and you can get rid of your cancer without doing super-invasive stuff, in a lot of cases. So I'm a big proponent."