Ralph Knapp’s Story
By: Ralph Knapp, Co-founder KCC
My story began June 9, 2014, the day I was told I had cancer…..kidney cancer and that it had spread to my lungs. Wow…not me…I’m only 53!
The first appointment with a local surgeon, my wife Brenda and I were told I had 2 to 3 years, we left that appointment in shock, disbelief and tears. Within 2 weeks, thru divine intervention, I was a patient at Johns Hopkins and had my right kidney removed and a partial lung resection.
Three months later, September 2014 my story begins with my oncologist Dr. Hans Hammers, a kidney cancer specialist and researcher at Johns Hopkins. My first post op scan revealed two cancerous nodules in my lungs. I’ll never forget his words “Cancer is back” in his thick German accent. Once again, shock and sadness.
He then told us about a randomized trial that involved two immunotherapy drugs which had shown success in earlier clinical trials. After weighing my options, I decided to wait for the trial to open. After 5 agonizing months, I was randomized to the standard of care drug. After six weeks my tumors seemed to explode on this drug and he immediately put me on an off-label use drug.This drug halted my progression, but made me feel terrible.
While on this drug, I continued to research my next treatment option. I read a blog on Smart Patients about a new trial Dr. Hammers wanted to start at Johns Hopkins with the same immunotherapy drugs plus high dose radiation…but he needed funding!!
Can you imagine the excitement I felt, instead of getting two immunotherapy responses I’ll get three!
We learned Dr. Hammers had secured millions of drugs through BMS and was trying to get funding from various departments at JH. We let him know that if he needed us, we would help. On June 9, 2015 (1 year to the date of my diagnosis) Hans called and said he could use our help. Within a month, 103 of my friends, family and business associates came together and contributed $300,000 for the RADAX clinical trial for 25 advanced kidney cancer patients. An incredible act of kindness and love shown by everyone!!
My personal journey continues as I fight this cancer. I have come to realize my survival rate as well as 60,000 other newly diagnosed kidney cancer patients depends on cutting edge research. These efforts need funding!!!
After a thorough search for a private funding vehicle for kidney cancer research and hearing the direct appeal from not only Dr. Hammers but other researchers in the field, it was obvious there was a need for a national non-profit to fund kidney cancer research. In July 2016, my wife and I co-founded Kidney Cancer Coalition.
This has become my hope and my passion to raise funds for research, clinical trials and find a cure for Kidney Cancer.
– Ralph Knapp