Medical Hero Spotlight: Michael Herman, Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trial Participant & Patient Advocate

Abruptly Diagnosed: Facing Multiple Myeloma

In the Fall of 2012, Mike Herman and his wife Angela were taking their daily walk with their dogs through the neighborhood. When Mike dropped his glasses and bent down to pick them up, he felt a sharp pain, much like walking into the corner of a counter. He assumed it may have been a pulled muscle, and tentatively moved on until it happened again a couple weeks later. This time, Mike was at work and had gone to pick some files up off the floor when the same pain started again. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the pain was caused by multiple micro-fractures.

At the doctor’s office, Mike was referred to a hematologist who believed he had a vitamin B12 deficiency and recommended he go home and take some supplements. “I was so lucky that day to have my wife with me who is a nurse and has a lot of experience navigating the healthcare system,” Mike recalls. “Angela insisted it was not a B12 deficiency and said we would not be leaving with that diagnosis, which was what finally pushed them to order a bone survey. That same afternoon, I was X-rayed from head to toe, which is how the microfractures were found.”

About a week later, Mike noticed an email in his medical portal with test results. He assumed this was good news about his health issues and never imagined he would receive a diagnosis without a phone call.

“I opened the message and must have read it ten times. I thought I must have been missing something, so I called my wife and read it to her,” Mike says. “When she hesitated, I realized that this was real and that I had cancer.”
Finding the Right Doctor

After receiving his diagnosis for multiple myeloma, Mike’s doctors started him on the standard treatment of chemotherapy.

“At that time, the only thought in my head was the fear of dying. I had been told that the life expectancy with this cancer was four years, and only three months prior my first granddaughter had been born. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be there to see her grow up,” Mike says. “Other options for treatment or clinical trials weren’t brought up by my doctors, so I didn’t know it was even possible for me.”

During the early days of treatment, Mike had the opportunity to change health insurance providers, which gave him much more flexibility in finding specialists for his cancer. Through research, the couple found Dr. Bart Barlogie, who had founded the UAMS Myeloma Center in Arkansas. Mike made the difficult decision to temporarily move to Arkansas and receive treatment at the center.

“I was down there for nine months and during that time I had two stem cell transplants and tried a couple different treatments,” Mike says. “My cancer wasn’t going into remission yet, but I was starting to feel a lot better, which is when I started becoming close with my doctor and appreciating his way of treating patients.”

Mike’s doctor believed in an individualized treatment approach, something that had been missing from his care when he was first diagnosed. “I highly value his feedback and we developed a great friendship. He welcomed me to ask questions and get second opinions from other doctors, which is so important when you are dealing with cancer. Any doctor who discourages you from getting another opinion does not have your best interest in mind,” Mike says.

Mike and Dr. Barlogie discussed his treatment, and Dr. Barlogie encouraged Mike to consider clinical trial participation. After Dr. Barlogie retired, Mike, having tried nearly every publicly available myeloma drug, sought new options, and opted for clinical research.

I knew from my wife’s work in clinical research that these studies are essential to developing new medicines. If I could, I wanted give back to other people with myeloma who might need this medicine in the future. For me, clinical trials felt like the right thing to do.”
Clinical Trial Participation & Success

Mike has been in two clinical trials at the University of Pennsylvania, both with incredible results. The first study was in 2020 for a treatment called Teclistamab, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine. The trial tested two different ways of administering the treatment, and Mike received his subcutaneously, as a shot into his stomach.

“My doctors said results may take a bit longer this way, so I wasn’t expecting anything immediate. It was only the first mini dose,” Mike explains. However, within 48 hours, Mike was in excruciating pain to the point where he could barely speak. During this, he received a phone call from his doctor who let him know that his cancer levels had dropped 99%. The pain Mike had been in was caused by something called cytokine release syndrome, and while difficult to endure, meant that the drug was effective for him.

“I wish I had known about it before. Maybe anticipating the pain would have made it easier to get through,” Mike reflects.

After finishing up with Teclistamab, Mike’s cancer was undetectable for 18 months. However, because there is currently no cure for multiple myeloma, the cancer tends to have a recurrence. In 2022 when his cancer returned, Mike signed up for another clinical trial run by Genentech for a treatment called Cevostamab. Within two weeks of starting the trial, Mike’s cancer was in total remission and has remained undetectable since.

Patient Advocacy Work

Recently, the drug Teclistamab was approved by the FDA and is now available to multiple myeloma patients as Tecvayli. “It’s incredible knowing that my participation in a study contributed to a new treatment for cancer,” Mike notes. “My experience has driven me to become more involved with patient advocacy, so I can share my story with others and be the impetus for significant change in our broken healthcare system.”

Over the last decade, Mike has spoken at various events and conferences about his experience and the importance of clinical research participation.

In your lifetime, you will likely either be diagnosed with cancer, or have a loved one who is diagnosed. I don’t want people to feel frozen by fear when it happens like I did at first. Having the resources and knowledge you need ahead of time can change that experience and outcome entirely,” Mike says. 

Together, Mike and Angela founded Speaking on Cancer Patient Advocacy (SoCPA), a non-profit with a mission to empower cancer patients and improve their treatment outcomes. The website includes helpful resources for individuals who have just been diagnosed, including guides to reading lab results, and education about different types of cancer.

Looking ahead, Mike is excited about some upcoming projects SoCPA has planned to help promote cancer awareness and education in larger companies and health care systems. His aim is to encourage companies to invest more in employee health and education, ultimately creating an environment where colleagues are comfortable navigating a cancer diagnosis in the workplace and know what their treatment options are.

“Being involved in patient advocacy and meeting such wonderful people has kept me motivated to work even harder.”

Additional Resources:  


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Written by Lindsey Elliott, Marketing & Communications Manager, CISCRP |