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Mesothelioma Survivor Rising with Immunotherapy

Gene Hartline and his wife, Mickie

Gene Hartline was ready to concede after doctors at a highly rated, big-city cancer center told him there was little they could do for his advanced-stage mesothelioma.

His family refused to believe it.

Hartline returned home and found innovative medical oncologist Dr. Rama Balaraman.

The two started a patient-doctor relationship that has given him new life as a pleural mesothelioma survivor.

A second opinion has worked wonders.

“The way I feel now, I could live another 20 years,” Hartline, 77, said recently from his home near Lady Lake, Florida. “God works miracles, and he’s working a good one here.”

Hartline, who was first diagnosed in July 2016, has been receiving the experimental immunotherapy drug nivolumab – also known by brand name Opdivo – for the last seven months.

He returns to Balaraman’s nearby office every two weeks for an hour of IV drug delivery, and a spirited, uplifting conversation.

“She’s great to talk with. The big cancer center, which came so highly recommended, told me I had only 4-6 months to live,” Hartline said. “The doctor there said the first 2-3 months would be okay, but then grab your bootstraps because the next two months would kick my ass. I thought it was over for me.”

His family did not.

They found Balaraman at Florida Cancer Affiliates, a community-based practice that focuses on emerging therapies and the unprecedented access to drugs not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I would tell anyone who gets diagnosed with this disease, don’t just take the first advice you get and give up,” Hartline stressed. “Look around and see what is out there. Dr. B told me from the start, ‘We’ll fight this together. We’ll try and come up with something that works for you.’ I was so lucky to find her. Best thing that could have happened to me.”


Tim Povtak, Senior Content Writer at Asbestos.com

Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers. Read More

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