Prostate Cancer: Switching on Chemo

FRESNO, Calif. "I was very optimistic, although I was pretty much aware that prostate cancer does have a life of its own," Roundy told Ivanhoe.

After surgery and years of treatment, Roundy's chemo stopped working.

"The problem with chemo is that many patients do not respond in the first place, and the patients that do respond stop responding after certain duration of treatment," Rakesh Singal, M.D., a medical oncologist at UM Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Singal discovered a gene necessary for chemotherapy to work that's often shut off in cancer cells. He's testing a drug that would trick the cancer cells into responding to chemo. In trials, patients get the drug, called Vidaza, daily for five days before chemo.

"So this drug turns the gene on, and the chemotherapy starts working again," Dr. Singal said.

So far, Roundy's PSA -- a measure for prostate cancer -- has dropped from about 30 to 3.

"You can't feel it in your body, but you can see the results and see the numbers as they come out every three weeks as the PSA continues to get lower," Roundy said.

Positive signs that prove his fight is headed in the right direction.

Clinical trials of this gene activation therapy for prostate cancer are continuing at the University of Miami's Sylvester Cancer Center.

Researchers say the same kind of treatment could one day be used to treat other kinds of cancer that have become resistant to traditional drug therapy.

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