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.