TAMPA (FOX 13) - As a news reporter for Channel 13 in 1980, Neil Vicino covered the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse as it unfolded. Thirty years later, he found himself facing a personal tragedy.
His stage-IV lung cancer was so advanced, his doctor said traditional therapy wouldn't work.
"I asked him: ‘Please be brutally honest with me. What are my chances here?’" he recalled.
The doctor gave him a 50-50 chance. Then he was offered a two-drug cocktail. One medication shrinks tumors; the other, called Opdivo, works by unmasking cancer. It allows the immune system to recognize and attack tumor cells throughout the body.
Back in 2015, Moffitt oncologist Dr. Ben Creelan was hopeful the once-a-week infusion would drastically change Neil’s odds of survival. He was the last patient at Moffitt Cancer Center to enter the clinical trial studying the drug's effects.
It's now four and a half years after his Stage-IV cancer diagnosis. "I don't have any complaints, I’m full of gratitude.”
He believes the drug he continues to get every two weeks is keeping him alive. "Getting into the trial and getting on this drug is obviously the only reason I’m here."
Neil now hopes his remission will give him more time to make a difference in the lives of others.
"I’m a person who believes you're kept around for a reason. I know what I want the reason to be and that's to help other people," he added.