Hirono to undergo more treatment in ongoing cancer battle

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono will be undergoing more treatment as she continues to battle cancer.

She said Tuesday that her doctor found small spots on her thyroid gland.

The senator will undergo immunotherapy, which is a treatment that allows her own immune system to attack the cancer cells.

Earlier this year, Hirono had surgery to have a kidney and a rib removed after being diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer.

Back in May, she vowed to fight the disease the same way she fights for the people of Hawaii. She continued that message Tuesday.

“Having cancer sucks, but I know that there are people in our country facing major health issues every single day. We are all in this together,” she said.

According to Dr. Shane Morita, who specializes in cancer treatments with The Queens Medical Center, immunotherapy is meant to help the body identity and fight cancer cells.

“Immunotherapy is actually a treatment that is used to enhance the body’s defense mechanism or immune system, so it’s not directly attacking the cancer and destroying it in the sense that it’s actually allowing the body’s immune system to fight the cancer,” Morita said.

Morita says it’s not entirely uncommon for kidney cancer to spread to the thyroid, and that immunotherapy has worked on others in the past.

“This type of therapy is the same type of therapy President (Jimmy) Carter received with melanoma, so this type of therapy again is really novel. It’s been tested so it’s hopeful that she’ll get a favorable response,” Morita said.

Hirono says she will continue to work during the treatment and plans to run for re-election next year.

She is optimistic about her treatment: “I expect that this therapy will work for me. That is my hope and expectation.”

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