Posted by Bob Simmons
Last week we heard a truly amazing personal story (his cancer journey) from Dr Steve Kramer, retired Ft Collins dentist.  Also participating was his wife, Janey, and his Oncologist from Mongolia, Dr Aldar Bourinbayar.  The emphasis on Dr Kramer’s personal search for effective treatment is apparent in the title of his presentation-“Finding an Atom on a Needle in a Haystack”.
In February 2014, as he was retiring, Steve began to feel very ill, and was shortly thereafter diagnosed with a primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).  This is a common disease in Mongolia and usually associated with chronic infections of the liver (hepatitis C and B) or cirrhosis. Steve had no identifiable predisposing conditions.
He first underwent a 60% resection of his liver. He next had surgery for a brain metastasis.  The response to treatment is monitored by a blood test (alpha fetoprotein) and CT imaging.  In spite of these surgeries and chemotherapy Steve was found to have recurrent extensive disease and was expected to survive no longer than 3-6 months. Future treatment (UC Health Oncology) had little to offer.
So, Steve and his supportive family began a search i.e., they “Googled it”.  They found a small published study from Mongolia that showed a remarkable treatment response  to an immunotherapy pill called V5.  Dr Aldar Bourinbayer had been studying this drug as a treatment for chronic viral hepatitis  and noticed that in some patients with Hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatitis the tumors were shrinking. He subsequently targeted this treatment to patients with this cancer (as well as others types) and published the results.
Steve travelled to Mongolia to meet Dr Bourinbayar . Steve has been taking this pill daily ever since -he has experienced no side effects and  imaging has showed resolution of tumor and his blood tumor marker has normalized.  His stated goals now are to ski with all his grandchildren (almost there) and get this drug approved by the FDA.  The later has been a frustrating process and  apparently  is a long way off.
There were many comments and questions after the talk. Dr Aldar Bourinbayar emphasized that only one in eight liver cancer  patients treated respond like Steve and this is not a panacea for all difficult-to-treat cancers.  Steve is a former member of Foothills Rotary and a talented sculptor and photographer. We are happy to have him with us and expect a followup talk in 5 years!