Living Better With Prostate Cancer
Ray is living with advanced-stage prostate cancer. When a conventional hormone therapy stopped working for him, he took part in a trial of a new active ingredient being developed by Bayer – and the results were positive. He’s now able to go on living much like he did before his illness.
Ray Park was 57 and had just retired. He and his wife Nancy were looking forward to finally spending lots of time together – but then out of the blue everything seemed to hang in the balance. A diagnosis turned Ray’s life upside down – prostate cancer. Ray was in shock. “It had never crossed my mind that I might have cancer.” Nancy’s father had died of cancer just two months prior. Now Ray was scared he might die, too. “Cancer is a killer,” he thought.
It’s now been 14 years since that fateful day. He didn’t know at that point that he would also be unable to beat his cancer. He would go through periods where he felt fine, but these were quickly followed by some really challenging times. No treatment or therapy could cure him. But, luckily for Ray, medicine has made great strides since then. Now he’s able to cope with his illness much better than he could just a few years ago, despite it being at an advanced stage.
When his doctor discovered the cancer in 2005, he wasn’t yet exhibiting any symptoms. “What can we do about it?” asked Ray. “I didn’t know the first thing about prostate cancer. It was all completely new to me.” Ray wanted to get the cancer out of his body as quickly as possible, so he underwent an operation.
Ray seemed to be in the clear after this – for the time being, at least. Just a few years later, however, his PSA levels began to rise again, which, in his case, was a sign that the cancer had returned. Once again, Ray was completely blindsided. He felt fit and healthy, but the illness was back. His doctor recommended radiotherapy, which was effective for a while.
He then prescribed Ray a course of hormone therapy designed to either inhibit the production of testosterone, the male sex hormone, or prevent it from fueling the remaining prostate cancer cells, thus impeding or slowing down their growth.
This helped Ray for a few years. “Then my PSA levels began soaring again.” His urologist suggested he consult a specialist. Ray had reached the stage known as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). In other words, the cancer had not yet metastasized and therefore had not spread. This means that, although the hormone levels have been significantly lowered through conventional testosterone blockers, the illness is still continuing to progress on a biochemical level.
This can be identified in the rising PSA levels, even if the tumor itself has not yet spread (i.e. metastasized). For men with progressive non-metastatic CRPC, a doubling of the PSA levels within a short space of time is often a sign that the tumor is likely to spread – and ultimately take their life – much sooner.
The Fifth Most Common Cause Of Cancer-related Deaths
Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men worldwide. According to estimates, approximately 1,276 million men worldwide were diagnosed with it in 2018. Some 359,000 patients died as a result of the disease. This makes prostate cancer the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths among men. Regular preventive screenings are key to detecting symptoms at an early stage, as patients usually do not experience discomfort until later in the disease’s development.
Up until just a few years ago, there was no established treatment for this stage of the disease. Recently, a new group of antiandrogens has been developed for patients like Ray with prostate cancer that has not yet spread but is still growing despite being treated with standard hormone therapy.
Treating patients with one of these new therapies can delay the time it takes for the tumor to spread – even if it is itself not a cure. However, some of these medicines can also have unpleasant side effects, such as high blood pressure, dizziness, rashes, nausea, falls and broken bones.
This can be very debilitating for patients, who, in many cases, are not yet experiencing any symptoms. For this reason, there is an urgent medical need for new therapies that have minimal adverse effects on patients still leading active lives.
Ray decided to take part in a large clinical trial in which all patients received the standard therapy (in the form of conventional hormone treatment), while one group also received an active ingredient (antiandrogen) that Bayer was developing and whose efficacy and tolerability was being tested as part of the trial. Ray was randomly selected to join the comparison group that was administered both forms of therapy. He responded well to the treatment he received during the trial and can now go on living as before without any major limitations.
He goes for walks along the beach with his wife, takes care of his granddaughter, plays golf once or twice a week, and helps out at the local animal shelter and school. “Doing nothing doesn’t come naturally to me,” he says.
What advice does he have for others who also have to live with an illness? “Have faith and think positive.” But, of course, the loving support of his wife has been a huge help, too. What’s next on the agenda for the couple? “A cruise!”