Maria Lewis

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

Two years ago in the summer of 2017, Maria Lewis from Salt Lake City was told by her oncologist at a large local cancer institute that she had Triple Negative breast cancer. She was given three to six months to live with little hope of any treatment working. The cancer institute offered a counselor to discuss getting her affairs in order.

 But Maria refused to give up on life and her six children and husband. 

Instead, having heard her prognosis, she researched and found Dr. Robert Nagourney — — an oncologist in Long Beach, California and also a clinical professor at the University of California Irvine. Dr. Nagourney is having amazing success through a laboratory technique he pioneered called functional profiling — — Maria traveled to California to undergo a biopsy. When the results proved strongly positive for a treatment completely different from the one that her doctor had offered, she began commuting from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles.

Now in complete remission two years later, her advice to anyone with cancer or may be diagnosed with cancer is to have a functional profile test at the Nagourney Cancer Institute. Functional profiling is very different from the genomic testing offered by most medical centers.  Genomic testing looks for mutations and other changes in each patient’s gene makeup that might guide drug selection. Although the concept is appealing, in reality, only a minority of patients have genetic changes that can be used to select drugs.. Functional profiling, by contrast, measures how cancer cells respond when they are exposed to all types of drugs and drug combinations.  

Put simply, it is a real-time measure of which drugs cause a person’s cancer cells to die, through a process called programmed cell death. By using this approach, functional profiling can determine in the laboratory the best drugs for each patient before they receive them.

Unfortunately, many oncologists rely on a generic, one-size-fits-all model to treat cancer, which can increase toxic reactions, and may not be the right personal treatment for an individual.

Within two weeks of having functional profiling completed, Maria was given the exact cancer drugs that were right for her, and her tumor shrunk 90 percent. Shortly thereafter, it disappeared completely.  

“I will tell anyone who has cancer that they need to see Dr. Nagourney,” said Maria. “I refused to give up when I was told I had only a few months to live. And Dr. Nagourney was the only one who gave me ho