Lutz started immunotherapy on February 26, 2020. He flew back and forth between family in Austin and treatments in Seattle during the spring and summer of 2020 so his team could monitor the tumor by both CT scan and CEUS.
The news at first was disappointing: neither showed signs of tumor shrinkage, implying that the immunotherapy wasn’t working. But after only the second round, CEUS revealed something that the CT scan couldn’t.
“It showed that blood flow into the tumor was considerably reduced,” Averkiou explains. “This meant that, even though it hadn’t changed size, the tumor was regressing.”
Cautiously, Lutz began to feel hope.
“If we had relied only on the CT scans, we may have concluded that immunotherapy wasn’t working since the tumor wasn’t getting smaller. I would’ve thought we were teetering on the edge and that the tumor could start growing again any time,” he says. “Would we have changed therapy or stopped all together? I don’t know. Because of the ultrasound, we stayed the course, and I enjoyed time with family with more optimism.”
The team continued monitoring the tumor through treatment. It never shrank, but it also never regained blood flow. In September 2020, Dr. Jonathan Sham of the UW Liver Tumor Clinic removed it.
“It was baseball-sized and totally dead, just as the ultrasound showed,” Lutz recalls.
Today, a cancer-free Lutz is back in Seattle. He recently began a new project with Steve Salipante from the UW Lab Medicine & Pathology team; during his UW-OncoPlex testing the two discovered shared research interests. And Lutz continues to receive CEUS to watch that no tumors have returned.
“The contrast enhanced ultrasound and the UW-OncoPlex panel helped save my life,” he says. “I have a lot to be thankful for at UW Medicine — from oncology to surgery and two great UW technologies. They all came together to give me a real gift.”