Novato musician David Lauser was on tour with Sammy Hagar this April when his wife, Liza, phoned.
“Are you sitting down?” she said. “Because I have some bad news to tell you.”
Liza went on to say that she had just been diagnosed with brain stem glioma, rare form of brain cancer.
The doctors weren’t hopeful. While the disease is more common in children, only 20 adults in the United States are diagnosed each year. The cancer, growing in the stem of her brain, was already impacting Liza, causing double vision, which she had previously attributed to a problem with contact lenses.
The couple was floored.
Things had been going so well. Liza had enjoyed a successful career as an attorney, then left the law behind to start an elder care business. She also bought two Curves franchises, the women’s only gym, including the one in Novato and was looking forward to the new chapter in her life. David, a drummer, toured the country playing music, but always loved returning home to quiet Novato.
After the diagnosis, the couple eagerly sought out second and third opinions, flying to various clinics and racking up a $70,000 bill in the process. But while the cancer was aggressive, there is an experimental treatment the Lausers say has the been shown to stabilize, and in some cases, completely cure the disease in patients.
“In Liza’s case, there’s only one documented, clinically proven drug that has cured a percentage of cancer and that’s anti-neoplaston therapy,” David says.
But the treatment, known as ANP for short, is not available to patients in the U.S. The US Food and Drug Administration recently completed two trials, but Liza’s diagnosis came too late for her to be included in them.
The couple has contacted the agency, asking how Liza can receive the drug, but has only received general replies. The couple says there is an up to 30 percent chance of curing or at least slowing the cancer with the treatment, which uses a group of synthetic chemicals called anti-neoplastons intended to protect the body from disease.
Contacted for comment, FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said she wasn’t able to speak about specific cases but that the agency “supports patients' rights to choose their treatments from among the many FDA-approved and lawfully marketed drugs.”
“The FDA both encourages and supports the participation of patients in the clinical trial process through which investigational drugs and biologics are evaluated prior to their approval for marketing,” Yao wrote Patch in an email.
“If such trials indicate that an investigational drug may be safe and effective for one or more uses, the FDA encourages sponsors to submit an application to request marketing approval of their investigational product.”
The American Cancer Society calls ANP is an "alternative treatment with no evidence of helping cancer patients."
Liza and David Lauser disagree, saying numerous people who received the therapy are now in remission.
Meanwhile, Liza’s disease is progressing, now making it difficult for her to speak and walk.
Running out of options, the couple is thinking about selling their house and moving to Japan, where ANP therapy is available at a cost of a staggering $30,000 a month. To help them afford the cost of treatment, which could last up to a year, they’ve started an online campaign.
The Lausers are also continuing to appeal to the FDA, asking for Liza to access the treatment in the United States in order to not lose their home and be forced to declare bankruptcy.
“Liza was told by her doctors, all of them, that she is going to die from this,” says David. “We discovered on our own this treatment which has more of a 27 percent chance of working, so my question is if there is nothing they can do for her, why withhold her a chance for life?”
Learn more about Liza Cozad-Lauser's fight and sign a petition urging the USFDA to make the treatment available to her.Have a news tip for Novato Patch? Drop Local Editor Karina Ioffee a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also Like us on Facebook , Follow us on Twitter @NovatoPatch or start your own Blog.