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Wendy McGee, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Comprehensive Cancer Centers is committed to offering groundbreaking research to its patients. In this Research Spotlight, learn how Wendy has been able to maintain her active lifestyle with no side effects at all.

At 42 years old, Wendy McGee had been the picture of health her entire life.

As a life-long athlete, she actively lifted weights, ran marathons, went hiking, and shared her knowledge with the next generation as a gymnastics coach. She never imagined cancer would impact her life or that, one day, she would rely on the doctors at Comprehensive Cancer Centers to preserve her vitality.

It wasn’t until she went in for a routine hernia surgery, caused by lifting weights and an abdominal wall that was weakened after childbirth, that Wendy’s whole life changed.

After the surgery, her doctors called her to say that they believed her blood was contaminated during surgery and she needed to come in immediately to run tests. The results showed something was wrong with her blood, and her doctors advised her to see an oncologist immediately.

Wendy was referred to Dr. Anthony Nguyen, a medical oncologist at Comprehensive. At that time, she still wasn’t worried because she had always been so healthy. In August 2013, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and she came to the realization that cancer can affect even the healthiest of people.

Since she was a young, active person with no previous health issues, Wendy was a watch-and-wait patient for the first several months after diagnosis. She continued to travel with the gymnasts she coached, but her condition began to worsen, and she became sicker.

In 2014 she went on Ibrutinib, which was considered the standard of care and the best option at the time. She experienced some side effects to the point that she required a dose reduction but still managed to keep the cancer under control.

Wendy trusted Dr. Nguyen completely so, in 2020 when he suggested it was time for a different course of treatment, Wendy was willing to try any protocols he recommended.

In August 2020, Wendy enrolled in a switch-over study for Zanubrutinib. The Phase 2, multicenter, single-arm study of Zanubrutinib (BGB-3111) was designed for patients being treated for B-cell lymphoma who are intolerant to Ibrutinib and/or Acalabrutinib. It is not yet FDA approved, but it was added to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines in December 2020.

Wendy has been on the new medication for more than a year, is able to handle the full dose, and has felt great with minimal side effects. Dr. Nguyen attributes the success to how much medicine has progressed, giving the doctors at Comprehensive the opportunity to find a more effective treatment option with fewer side effects.

With the help of Dr. Nguyen and the team at Comprehensive, no one would even know 51-year-old Wendy has leukemia. She works out every day and never misses a day of work. Although she has retired from coaching gymnasts, she couldn’t stay away and now runs the gymnastics facility.

During the last ten years, the treatment possibilities for leukemia have advanced beyond what anyone thought was previously possible. Wendy says she would absolutely recommend a clinical trial to another patient.

“There is no reason not to. I didn’t even think twice about it when Dr. Nguyen said I would be a good candidate,” Wendy says.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers has partnered with some of the world’s most recognizable research and cancer-fighting organizations, including The US Oncology Network, UCLA TRIO-US, USC, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and leading pharmaceutical companies, to offer groundbreaking research to its patients. The practice participates in more than 170 Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III clinical research studies each year and has played a role in developing more than 100 FDA-approved cancer therapies.


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