Christy Williams, a mom and colorectal cancer survivor, plays a table-top game with her family.

Christy Williams: Biomarker testing leads to successful treatment

Christy Williams, a mom and colorectal cancer survivor, plays a table-top game with her family.

Christy Williams had always looked after her health, so it was nearly unimaginable when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 40. Worse yet, the cancer had spread to her liver, making it stage IV (metastatic).

Statistics suggested that Christy’s odds of survival were grim, so she leaned into her faith and kept a positive outlook. She tried to control what she could.

“At the time, it was a 5% survival rate,” Christy said. “I had to say to myself, ‘That’s not me, I’m different.’”

As it turns out, she was right.

Christy Williams speaks about her colorectal cancer diagnosis and biomarker testing

A turning point

After healing from surgery to remove her colorectal tumor and lymph nodes, Christy began chemotherapy with Folfox. In the days after her first treatment, Christy’s oncologist ordered biomarker testing, a decision that would alter the course of her treatment.

Biomarker testing, often conducted behind the scenes, involves analyzing a patient's tumor to identify specific molecular markers. These markers can indicate which treatments are likely to be most effective. Treatment based on a patient’s biomarkers is called targeted therapy.

Testing revealed that Christy was a candidate for a targeted therapy called Vectibix, which would be added to Folfox for the remaining 11 rounds of treatment.

Incredibly, scans after just four more treatments showed the liver metastases in retreat. In fact, they couldn’t be found at all!

“The day we found out that the cancer had metastasized was the worst day of my life, and the scan with no evidence was the best day,” Christy said.

Even with remarkable progress, Christy finished a full 12 rounds of chemotherapy over six months.

An inspiring story

From a five percent chance of survival to four years of cancer-free life, Christy’s story inspires hope -- and she finds value in sharing it with patients and survivors.

"That's what got me through it, was talking to survivors on the other side who had been through it without evidence for disease," she said.

To take her message even further, she partnered with Amgen, the company that makes Vectibix.

"My message is to be your biggest advocate,” Christy said. “Push hard for biomarker testing, targeted therapies, and new treatments."

And, as someone who put off a life-changing colonoscopy for six months before diagnosis, she advocates for prevention above all else.

"Maybe I wouldn't have been stage IV if I hadn’t waited,” Christy said. “It's a whole lot easier to do screening with colonoscopy than go through chemo and radiation and surgery."

Learn more about biomarkers here and screening here.


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