The standard of care for hormone-sensitive prostate cancer has changed due to a clinical trial with local input by Dr. Oza of the Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care. Garry Lupkey, a Salem resident, has participated in this clinical trial and is doing fantastic. “It has been 140 days since I did not feel good enough to get out of bed in the morning; now I bicycle ride twenty miles every day,” stated Lupkey.
In this clinical trial approved by the National Cancer Institute, the addition of docetaxel to androgen-deprivation therapy has extended survival for men with newly diagnosed hormone-sensitive prostate cancer by 13-17 months. “This is a giant step in cancer care; it is unprecedented,” stated Oza. “Never, in my lifetime as an oncologist, have I seen any trial which has prolonged survival to this magnitude”, Oza continued.
Lupkey was caring for his mother with Alzheimer’s Disease, when he was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer which was hormone sensitive. “Luckily, when Garry came to see us we had this clinical trial open and he was kind enough to participate. It helped him and it helped us (the oncology profession) to learn something about how to treat this beast” stated Dr. Oza. “Garry started androgen-deprivation therapy along with chemotherapy,” explains Dr. Oza. After six cycles of chemotherapy and Eligard shots (hormone deprivation drug), Garry continues to receive a shot every four months that shuts off the production of the male hormone.
Clinical trials are an important part of advancing health care. According to Tonya Howard, Clinical Research Nurse for Good Samaritan Regional Health Center, they currently have about 45 trials open. For this particular trial there were 750 participants and two were patients of Dr. Oza.
Howard and Oza explained Phase I of clinical trials is for new drugs being studied for safety and/or side effects. These trials are for those who have a health problem and there are no other options. In Phase II a drug is studied for activity, meaning whether it is helping by shrinking a tumor. Phase III is a comparison of a drug or treatment to the current standard of care.
The majority of studies the Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care participates in are at the Phase III level. “The drugs we use are all safe, the drugs are found to have activity in the cancer and we are trying to see if what we are doing at the moment can be improved or not,” Dr. Oza says.
“Good Samaritan Hospital is to be commended for having a full-time research clinical coordinator. Without a dedicated person like Tonya, you can’t do this,” remarks Oza. Howard monitors all trial patients and follows the National Cancer Institute’s strict reporting guidelines.
Dr. Oza notes he is always learning through participation in clinical trials; the outcome ultimately helps. “Like one of my patients said, ‘you plow the snow a little bit further for the guy behind you’.” Oza adds, “Another patient recently came to me who had prostate cancer like Garry’s. I looked him eye to eye and told him about the trial and recommended this treatment.” The team at the Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care and Good Samaritan Regional Health Center feel privileged that they are able to provide this service.
This clinical trial has made a tremendous impact on the treatment of prostate cancer and specifically for one local man. “Most people get one chance at life. I’ve gotten two. I’m going to make the best of it. I belong to the Second Chance Club,” Lupkey says with a sparkle in his eye.