Medical Trial Saves Life of Stage IV Patient


Journalist, father, role model – this is Robert Wilonsky. A diagnosis of metastatic kidney cancer gave him only three years to live, but he did not accept this fate and decided to write himself a new story. One year later Robert is disease free and an example of perseverance.

From the moment upon receiving the terrible news (in a strange twist, just one day before his son’s 14th anniversary) Mr. Wilonsky went on seemingly unaffected. Even though he was battling with doubt and worry inside, he never let it show and carried on, even going to work each and every day.

Chemotherapy is the typical course of action, but this was not a viable solution in his case. The tumor was bigger than a fist and was spreading towards his liver.

Eventually, he met Dr. Hans Hammers from the Kidney Cancer Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center and became patient number 10 in a trial for RADVAX. The treatment combines radiation with two immunotherapy drugs, nivoluma, and ipilimumab. It was either going to kill him or reduce the growths to an operable size.

For several months he was bombarded with stereotactic radiation (SABR), where focused beams from different directions converge on the tumor providing lethal doses of radiation, and later jammed with pills.

Robert kept his battle with cancer a secret, even when his body was showing visible signs until the results of the trial were in – the treatment had worked. No more tumors.

He continues to write and is grateful for the opportunity of seeing his son grow up. He remains humble and shares his experience to help people that are facing similar situations, giving them hope and strength.

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