A new class of drugs—called biologics—is giving renewed hope
to thousands of patients with cancer and other devastating
illnesses. But are the benefits worth the risks,
both physically and financially?
BY MARY A. FISCHER
OPPOSITE: XVIVO LLC/PHOTOTAKE INC.
In January 2006 Richard Oropeza Jr., now 60, was
making coffee in the kitchen of his California home when he
felt a sudden tingling in his legs. The sensation went away
within 20 minutes, but over the next several weeks it came
back twice, along with excruciating headaches and complete
paralysis on his left side. Emergency surgery revealed that
Oropeza had a malignant tumor the size of an apricot on his
brain, and doctors gave him less than a year to live. He under-
went six weeks of conventional cancer treatment—radiation
and chemotherapy—that sapped his energy and caused de-
bilitating nausea. But the tumor kept growing.
“There’s nothing more I can do for you,” his doctor told
him in September 2006, eight months after his initial
“Isn’t there anything else we could try?” Oropeza plead-
ed. “Any clinical trial?”