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Biomarker testing gives stage IV lung cancer patient more time

“Gina was full of life… If you saw her, it would brighten your day. God… it’s so hard,” said Greg Hollenbeck.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Mid-South is known as the mecca for lung cancer cases, but one test may be able to change how it is treated. 

Biomarker testing has transformed everything. Doctors said 10 years ago, only four out of 100 people diagnosed with advanced lung cancer survive past five years. With the test, 60 out of 100 survive.

“When you talk about Gina and bravery, you know going into brain surgery and smiling… Going into lung surgery,” said Greg Hollenbeck, Gina Hollenbeck Memorial Fund.

Bravery beats all odds. 

“I think bravery is just not knowing what you’re getting into, but just going for it anyway,” said Greg Hollenback.

His wife, Gina, boldly stepped into bravery. 

“Gina was full of life… If you saw her, it would brighten your day. God… it’s so hard,” said Hollenbeck. He was right by Gina’s side as she battled stage IV lung cancer.

“When Gina was diagnosed in 2016, they gave her about seven to 10 months to live down in MD Anderson,” said Hollenbeck.

It is time that neither Gina or Greg accepted. 

“We just started researching and found out about this different biomarker testing,” said Hollenbeck.

They turned to Baptist doctor, Raymond Osarogiagbon. 

“A biomarker is a test that you use to find the presence of a condition or to predict it’s future behavior,” said Dr. Osarogiagbon, Chief Scientist for Baptist Memorial Health Care.

From the biomarker test, Dr. Osarogiagbon was able to determine how Gina’s cancer cells would behave and what medication would respond best. That testing bought Gina more time. 

“Instead of living seven to 10 months, she got almost seven years because of biomarker testing,” said Hollenbeck.

Gina passed away in June this year. We asked Hollenbeck, “How will you describe those seven years?”  

“Valuable,” said Hollenbeck.  

“On the one hand, there’s the looking back and saying she lived more than six years. On the other hand, it’s stepping back and saying a young mother of two lived six years. That’s not nearly good enough. You can’t be satisfied with that,” said Dr. Osarogiagbon.

Hollenbeck alongside Baptist Memorial Health Care started the Gina Hollenbeck Memorial Fund, raising money for biomarker testing for those who can’t afford it. 

“The large part of the problem is the doctor doesn’t know to do the test and the patient doesn’t know to ask for the test,” said Dr. Osarogiagbon.

Insurance doesn’t usually cover it as well. 

“What we’re trying to do with this fund is figure out pragmatic solutions to the problem. Make sure that nobody gets left behind who could benefit from biomarker testing,” said Dr. Osarogiagbon.

“I just feel honored that I can actually do something,” said Hollenbeck. 

It is an honor that carries on Gina’s bravery.

If you would like to support the Gina Hollenbeck Memorial Fund, click here.

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