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Zita Murano suspected something was wrong. For several weeks starting in November 2021, she had a persistent cough, experienced weight loss and felt run down and tired.

Her symptoms didn’t improve after taking steroids and using a nasal spray. In fact, they got worse. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, Murano couldn’t talk without coughing, and sleeping was difficult.

A chest X-ray on December 30 showed a sizeable mass in her lung. The next step was determining a diagnosis. Murano had a CT scan at Catholic Health’s Good Samaritan Hospital.  

As an active 62-year-old who enjoys staying physically fit, was shocked to learn she had stage 4 lung cancer with nine brain tumors. 

The following week, she met with Ashish Sangal, MD, the director of thoracic oncology at Catholic Health’s Cancer Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital.

“I was very impressed with his sense of urgency. While I was impressed, I was scared at the same time,” Murano said.

Along with Dr. Sangal, Murano saw a host of physicians at the Institute, including Catholic Health’s Director of Interventional Pulmonary and Lung Cancer Screening Director Sharad Chandrika, MD. Dr. Chandrika performed a biopsy on the tennis-ball sized mass in her lung and did a procedure to clear her airway, helping Murano breathe better.

Next, Murano saw Good Samaritan neurosurgeon Symeon Missios, MD, who recommended stereotactic radiosurgery for her brain tumors.  The largest brain tumor was the size of a cherry. 

Using HyperArc technology on the Varian Edge, Dr. Missios and Johnny Kao, MD, the Chairman of Radiation Oncology, collaborated to successfully treat the nine brain tumors in 4 brief stereotactic radiation treatments.  She had no toxicity despite having nine brain tumors treated.  Additionally, in February, Murano entered a clinical trial that combines a chemotherapy pill called Tragrisso® with immunotherapy drugs to fight her cancer. She receives infusions of the Avastin® every 21 days.

The combination is working, she said. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on April 14th revealed the nine brain tumors  were gone, and the mass in her lungs had shrunk by 40%.

“All my doctors were jumping up and down saying I’m the poster child for what you want to see happen with cancer treatment,” the West Babylon resident said.

Murano will have additional MRIs to track the tumor in her lung and watch for regrowth in her brain. She doesn’t expect to see the lung tumor shrink significantly again, but she hopes it will remain stable.

As part of the clinical trial, Murano will take Tragrisso the rest of her life and will receive immunotherapy infusions for two years. Even though there are side effects to the treatment, including skin rashes, decreased appetite and nausea, Murano said she’s slowly returning to her normal activities.

“I’ve been slowly going back to the gym and started back to work in early June,” she said. 

Murano credits the care and attention she was given from the physicians and staff at the Cancer Institute at Good Samaritan with her prognosis.

“It’s taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to be cancer free. But without the care I’ve received to this point, the outcome might have been much different,” she concluded.

Catholic Health Cancer Institutes across Long Island offer a full spectrum of care close to home. Through our affiliation with Roswell Park, one of the nation’s leading cancer research centers, we give Long Islanders exclusive access to the newest and most innovative treatments available only through clinical trials.

Call 844-86-CANCER (844-862-2623) for more information.

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