PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mark Taylor was only 38 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer.
But because of his family history, he wasn’t surprised.
“My father got prostate cancer very early in his life,” Taylor said.
His doctors were watching him closely with a blood test called PSA.
“One year it was zero and the next time we checked it, it had spiked up,” Taylor said.
The biopsy showed cancer. Mark got the standard treatment of surgery. His prostate, the walnut-shaped gland just beneath the bladder, was removed. He also got chemotherapy – treatments with potential risks.
“Just that fatigue and not being able to function at an adequate level with a wife and three kids, that sort of thing,” Taylor said. “But fortunately I was preserved.”
“I wasn’t worried about hair loss,” he joked, “because I was going bald anyway.”
Luckily he had minimal side effects, but unfortunately the cancer spread to his bones and he broke his pelvis.
That’s when he met Allegheny Health Network Medical Oncologist Dr. Shifeng Mao for cutting edge treatments.
He got a drug, FDA approved in 2012, called Xtandi. It blocks testosterone more completely than older hormone blockers.
Studies show five additional months of survival with Xtandi compared to two additional months with chemotherapy.
He received a special kind of radium that is absorbed by the bones and delivers radiation therapy directly to the cancer in the bones.
He also got Provenge, an individualized treatment where the patient’s own cancer-fighting white blood cells are removed, treated to boost their fighting power, then infused back into the patient. Survival goes from 21 months with placebo to 26 months with Provenge.
“It’s always exciting to hear some other drug, a new treatment plan has the possibility to give you an extra few months, few years, whatever the case may be,” said Taylor.
While these treatments are exciting, they can also be expensive — for example, $93,000 for a course of Provenge. Mark, who was a private jet pilot, has insurance that covers it.
“You’d hate to have somebody not be able to get cutting edge treatment because of financial problems,” Moa said. “When we enjoy the advance of medical science, at the same time we have to deal with the financial cost, which is very real for each patient.”
The treatments give Mark hope.
“My biggest hope is to function as normal as possible for as long as possible,” he said. “Help my wife with raising kids, just enjoy life.”
Typically men much older than Mark get prostate cancer. But with his family history, as the father of three young boys, Mark thinks of their future.
“By the time your boys get to the point that they need to check for it, and worry about it, we might have a pill that they take and there will be no more problem,” he said.
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