About Tonya's Law


Tonya Petchel was diagnosed in May of 2015 with Stage 4 cancer located in her liver and passed away January 24, 2017 at the age of 47. She was just an ordinary person with little knowledge or resources to fight her cancer and was initially told she would live less than 11 months. She was also told that chemotherapy was her only option based on where her cancer was located and originated.

Her husband JJ never accepted that and devoted most of his time researching cancer and treatments for Tonya. JJ and Tonya discovered too late that there were options for Tonya even after being told by several well-intended doctors that there were not.

In the last few months of her life, Tonya was in a clinical trial at a university research hospital. The DNA of Tonya’s cancer was tested and she was able to take two FDA approved medications for other cancer locations that targeted the gene mutations in her cancer. These treatments worked quickly and dramatically reduced her tumor sizes by 40% in 2 months. She was scheduled to try immunotherapy right before her death.

Tonya was doing very well and everyone, including her doctors. was surprised by her death. It is believed that her death was caused by a blood clot. The regret is that Tonya did not receive molecular targeted therapy and immunotherapy immediately upon diagnosis when she was literally in the best shape of her life and very strong.

How did Tonya’s Law come about?

JJ Petchel had the vision for Tonya’s Law in August of 2016 when he discovered that Tonya’s cancer could potentially be cured. None of Tonya’s numerous doctors up to that point knew or believed it could be effectively treated with molecular targeted therapy or immunotherapy nor directed Tonya to a research hospital for treatment.
The creation of Tonya’s Law began at Tonya’s doctor visits at the Moores Cancer Center of the University of California San Diego. Doctor Shumei Kato patiently answered what likely seemed like never ending questions not only about Tonya’s treatment but about how every cancer patient might receive similar treatments in the future.

Following Tonya’s death, JJ consulted with additional UCSD doctors who were instrumental in the formation of Tonya’s Law. These doctors have actually cured cancer through immunotherapy.

Tonya’s Law addresses challenges that doctors at research hospitals face getting state of the art DNA based treatments to patients. Addressing these challenges legally through Tonya’s Law in California will likely expedite by years the final goal of having these life saving treatments available to all cancer patients. Tonya’s Law is more than a legal initiative; it is a public education movement to inspire every cancer patient to demand that the DNA of their cancer be sequenced and that they are presented treatment options based of the results of the DNA testing.

Why Tonya’s Law?

Tonya’s experience throughout her cancer journey exposed major problems with cancer care in America. First, classifying cancer based its location in the body is now a primitive method. Treatments work on some patients and not others because fighting cancer based on the DNA of the cancer is much more relevant than the cancers location in the body. FDA approved treatments directly related to a patient’s DNA of their cancer are available but the majority do not receive these treatments or are aware of them because sequencing the DNA of their cancer is often not part of the FDA approved standard of care treatments based on where the cancer is located in their body.

“What type of cancer do you have?”

Furthermore, did you realize that when you ask someone what type of cancer they have you really mean to ask where is your cancer located? The entire cancer industry still thinks this way and this simple question is comparable to thinking the world is flat.

The bottom line is that cancer patients are dying every day in America that could have possibly been cured by treatments such as immunotherapy or have their cancer suppressed for long periods with fewer side effects with treatments such as molecular targeted therapy.

Vision: Most experts believe that a cure for cancer will come through treatments like immunotherapy that uses the bodies’ own immune system to fight the cancer. This is the belief because people are already being cured using this therapy and it has become the standard of care for some locations of cancer. Recent notable success stories are former President Jimmy Carter and Poison rock band drummer Rikki Rockkett but there are countless others and doctors and scientists are literally figuring out how to help more cancer patients everyday using the body’s immune system. One day in the future cancer treatment should entail: 1. Blood is drawn at a annual checkup. 2. Blood tests identify not only the presence of cancer, but the DNA mutations of the cancer. 3. Doctors will prescribe a medication to fight the cancer at a DNA level. 4. The cancer is gone within weeks.

What specifically is Tonya’s Law?

The initial goal for Tonya’s Law is to become a California Law in 2018. This lengthy process has already begun with the help of Senator Jeff Stone whose pharmaceutical training and experience makes him the ideal Senator to back Tonya’s Law. Tonya’s Law will require tumor profiling with tests such as DNA sequencing for patients be covered by all insurance companies.

Additionally, FDA approved medications that target the gene mutations discovered in the testing must be covered by all insurance companies. This insurance coverage of medications will be regardless of where the patient’s cancer is located or originated.  It does not have to be the same body location as the FDA approved study. It only has to have the same DNA target as the FDA approved study. If the FDA approved medication targets the gene mutation of the patients cancer, all insurance companies must cover and make the medication as easily available to the patient as any FDA approved medication for the specific patient.


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And the number of cases is growing daily.