Prostate cancer study at Wash U. school of Medicine shows promise in leading to a cure

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ST. LOUIS – A landmark study in the fight against prostate cancer is producing promising results. Scientists at Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center are conducting the research which is giving new hope to patients diagnosed with the deadly disease. “Two years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” said 67-year-old Bill Petersen, a loving husband, father, and grandfather. “I had no symptoms at all.”

The cancer which spread to Petersen’s bladder and bones was discovered during a routine doctor visit.  “They did an annual chemistry test and the PSA level instead of being below four which is normal it was nine,” said Petersen.  Petersen’s prostate-specific antigen or PSA rose to an alarming 46 within two months.  “The way it was rising, I wasn’t sure I would be around.”

Taken aback by the devastating news, Petersen relied on his faith and his family to move forward.  “My wife and I are very close.  She is my rock.  We decided we would face this together and of course, pray.  That’s been my comfort.”

After completing chemotherapy treatments Petersen became the first patient to enroll in a prostate cancer antigen vaccine trial.  “He’s been doing great so far,” said Dr. Russell Pachynski, a renowned oncologist at Siteman Cancer Center.  Dr. Pachynski is conducting the study on the fatal disease.  “The goal with our trial is doing it in metastatic prostate cancer patients, but in a little earlier space so that their tumor is as maximally reduced.”

Patients like Petersen with very low PSA levels are given several combinations of immunotherapies.  “What we’re doing is combining this vaccine with a few other immunotherapies as well to try to really jump-start the immune system,” Dr. Pachynski explained.

Petersen says he has noticed a dramatic change in the way he feels.  “I can tell by my own symptoms that I’m doing much better feeling much better.  I feel ten years younger than I did before.”

In a few weeks, Petersen will be given a personalized vaccine custom made from his tumor.

“We hope this is really going to significantly impact metastatic prostate cancer,” said Dr. Pachynski.

Dr. Pachynski collaboration with a team of scientists at Washington University School of Medicine has developed new antigen vaccines, which have proven to slow the growth of cancer. And for the first time, those vaccines are being used to treat patients with prostate cancer. “Which is very exciting for patients with metastatic cancer. A few years ago, that was an absolute death sentence.” Dr. Pachynski noted.

Now, Wash U scientists are working to find a cure for prostate cancer.  Because of the promising results with the new immunotherapies and the combinations being used, Dr. Pachynski and his team are hopeful they will accomplish their goal.  “I think we’re going to incrementally get there and we’re going to be seeing more and more patients that receive these have very long kind of remissions and durations and some of those will end up being cures,” said Dr. Pachynski.

That’s inspiring news for Petersen, a prostate cancer patient who now has new hope.  “If it does not bring me to a cure, I know it’s going to enhance the future of men with prostate cancer.”

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