NEW ORLEANS -- There is new hope for men with a serious form of prostate cancer -- a new treatment that makes your own immune system act like a powerful super drug. And one day this treatment could apply to other forms of cancer.
Dennis Daray remembers sleeping in areas covered with Agent Orange when he was in the U.S.Marine Corps in Vietnam. He believes that is why he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in his 50s, even though he had no family history.
At 64, he now faces cancer that has spread to his bones.
'It's the 'C' word. Personally I overcame it fairly fast, and what do we do now?' Daray said. 'We certainly can't go back.'
But now there is new hope for Daray. He is the first patient at the Tulane Cancer Center to try a new way of fighting prostate cancer that has metastasized to other areas of the body. The treatment he is trying will actually turn his own immune system in to a prostate cancer killing drug of sorts.
When he heard that he was a candidate for this new treatment, it gave him more hope.
'Oh, I've always had the hope,' said Daray.
Daray came to Dr. Oliver Sartor for the treatment. Here's how it works:
Three different times Daray had his blood drawn. Each time his immune cells from his blood were sent up to a lab in New Jersey where they were put in a brew of stimulants. Molecules were added that are powerful immune stimulators.
The cells are actually vaccinated and become super charged fighter cells. They are now ready to recognize the cancer cells in Daray's body as foreign invaders that they are programmed to attack and destroy. The immune cells are then flown back and infused back into Daray's body.
Dr. Sartor said the concept of this treatment is completely new.
'The interesting thing is they can really jazz up these cells. They can really jazz up the immune system in the test tube more so than they can do in your body, and that's the cool thing about this therapy,' said Dr. Sartor, medical director of the Tulane Cancer Center.
'It's cutting edge. It's here and I'm tickled to death to be a part of it,' said Daray.
And the studies show if this works for Daray, it could make a big difference in his life.
'The thing that's really different about this particular therapy, it's been shown in large prospective trials to be able to prolong survival, and that's critical,' Dr. Sartor said. 'People live longer with prostate cancer, which is pretty amazing.'
Daray will find out in a few weeks if the Provenge immunotherapy made a difference. Now he plans to travel to the VA in Dallas to meet up with some of his buddies who fought with him in Vietnam and also have cancer.
His records will be checked there because doctors say people exposed to Agent Orange are at higher risk of prostate cancer.
This new treatment is for men whose prostate cancer has spread and who have few or no symptoms. You must have already had hormonal treatment that didn't stop the cancer from growing.
Private insurance and Medicare have approved payment for this treatment.