‘Very exciting treatment’: New advanced prostate cancer drug available in Canada
Just looking at Ward Carson, you would never know he’s sick.
The 79-year-old Halifax man has lived with metastatic prostate cancer for the past 19 years.
“It hasn’t had a big impact on the way I live my life,” he said. “My wife has periodically said to me, ‘I can hardly believe you’re sick.’”
But he is sick, and according to his latest prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, his PSA count — an indicator of prostate cancer — is increasing.
“I think it’s only in the last six or eight months that it’s jumped a bit, and now it’s jumping again,” Carson said.
His enlarged prostate was first detected back in 2003, and he subsequently had a prostatectomy, a procedure to remove part or all of the prostate gland. But cancer cells stayed behind and spread, or metastasized. He’s had hormone therapy, radiation, and most recently, drug treatment to keep the cancer spread at bay.
“And (those measures) have been working for the last number of years, but they seem to have tapered off in their effect,” he told Global News.
“Unfortunately, my cancer has metastasized on my spine and there is no procedure to operate and remove part of my spine.”
“Eventually the cancer cells learn to live under the influence of those treatments and they start to grow again,” said Dr. Ricardo Rendon, a urologic oncologist and Dalhousie University professor in the department of urology.
Usually when the prostate cancer advances through all the treatments, there’s not much more doctors can offer, he said.
That is, until now.
“We have a new treatment that is brand new and available to our patients who had nothing else to receive when their disease was progressing,” he said.
Pluvicto was approved in Canada just last month, and it will allow doctors, for the first time, to target and treat specific cancer cells.
“So instead of being a shotgun approach to treating cancer, it’s a missile directly to the prostate cancer cells,” Rendon said.
This targeted approach will not only help patients live longer and with a much better quality of life, he said, but it will also produce fewer of the side effects that come with other treatments.
“It is very difficult talking to a patient telling them that we have nothing else to offer for the disease … So it is amazing to be able to off this to these patients,” Rendon said.
Only four per cent of advanced prostate cancer cases are preventable, based on currently-known risk factors, which is why advancements in prostate cancer treatment are critical, Rendon said.
“Since 2004, we have about six to eight new drugs approved, thanks to hundreds of clinical trials and many thousands of patients who have gone through this,” he said. “In these 15 years, we have been able to almost triple the life expectancy of patients with advanced prostate cancer.”
The ongoing research is not lost on Carson, who understands that this new drug may be his last treatment option.
“Dr. Rendon hasn’t said ‘we can either put you in the trial or try drug B,’ so I’m not sure what else is out there for me,” said Carson.
“The idea that this radioactive drug will seek out the prostate cancer cells and attach to them and radiate just them — that sounds brilliant to me, and hopefully it will work.”