Fruits of the season: With craft and care, the venerable fruitcake still delights

Zoe Ewan of East Hazel Crest, second from left, is
pictured with some of her Ingalls Cancer Care caregivers
at the Ingalls Infusion Center in Flossmoor,
from left, nurse Joyce Watt, Dr. Mark Kozloff
and nurse Leona Ritchey.
(Provided photo from 
Ingalls Memorial Hospital)

Former President Jimmy Carter recently announced that treatment had destroyed his melanoma-related brain tumors, putting him into remission.

The drug credited with effectively treating Carter’s cancer, Keytruda, is also being used at Ingalls Cancer Care, according to a news release from the hospital.

While melanoma accounts for less than two percent of all skin cancer cases, it’s responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, one person dies every hour of melanoma in the U.S.

Keytruda is a powerful new immunotherapy drug that is showing excellent results in patients with advanced melanoma. 

“The immune system is the body’s natural defense against disease,” said Dr. Mark Kozloff, medical director of Ingalls Cancer Care. “It sends specific types of cells called ‘T cells’ throughout the body to detect and fight infections and diseases—including cancers like advanced melanoma.”

However, certain cancer cells are good at hiding from the body’s immune fighters, allowing the cancer to grow and spread. 

“Keytruda helps the immune system do what it was meant to do: find and fight cancer cells,” Kozloff said. “Cancer cells have a way of inhibiting the immune system, but immunotherapy drugs like Keytruda are changing the landscape by ‘turning on’ the immune system and unleashing its potential against the invading cells. There’s considerable potential to use immunotherapy to fight other types of cancer too, including lung, kidney and bladder.”

Seventy-eight-year-old Zoe Ewan of East Hazel Crest just completed her ninth Keytruda treatment at the Ingalls Infusion Center in Flossmoor and is experiencing excellent results. Ewan was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma of the right lung, liver and bones earlier this year, and recent diagnostic scans show her cancer is gone. 

This is Ewan’s second melanoma occurrence; she was treated for it in 2001. It recurred in 2015. That’s when Kozloff recommended the new targeted immunotherapy drug.

Studies have shown than Keytruda can shrink tumors by as much as 90 percent in about a third of patients. 

Ewan, who has had an outstanding response to the treatment with very few side effects,
said she couldn’t be happier.

“I haven’t had to change my lifestyle at all,” she said. In fact, the optimistic great-grandmother continues to work two part-time jobs, including one as a trustee for the Village of East Hazel Crest.

Ewan credits God, Kozloff and Keytruda with her miraculous turnaround. And when she discovered she’s on the same treatment regimen as the former president, she was thrilled – and grateful. 

“I’m right up there with someone who’s important,” she added with a smile. “They wouldn’t give President Carter anything but the best, and that’s what I’m getting too. I put my life in God’s and Dr. Kozloff’s hands, and it’s paying off. I guess God thinks I’m worth keeping around for a while.”

For more information about immunotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment at Ingalls, call 708-915-4673.

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