My biopsy showed that my cancer cells are uniformly positive for CD20, a protein found on the surface of some normal lymphocytes as well as on some cancerous cells. My tumor is too large to remove surgically without having to remove my entire stomach so the goal is to shrink my tumor enough to make radiation, or surgery plus radiation, an option.
My initial round of treatment took place in December 2007 with four weekly transfusions with Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody treatment that targets CD20+ cells and kills them. The side effects of Rituxan are minimal, with an allergic reaction being the most common side effect. I sailed through the first two treatments without difficulty but woke the day after my third treatment with an ache in every joint of my body, barely able to move for the next week.
In January 2008, we did another CT scan to see what effect the Rituxan had. While the tumor was smaller, the change was insignificant and my oncologist suggested another round of Rituxan in three months. In the meantime, I sought a second opinion and the second oncologist suggested a more aggressive approach: rituxan combined with chemotherapy (R-CVP).