Stage Four Metastic Prostate Cancer
Hi, I’m Bryce. I am 45 am living a full life with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. I have experienced firsthand the importance of genomic testing and the treatment options it may unveil. I am hoping to share my experience to inform and inspire others on the importance of exploring all treatment options and connecting with all that can help educate and support you along the way.
Words to Live By
If a friend called and said he just found out that he has metastatic prostate cancer, I would just say two words: Get sequenced!
I say the same thing to everybody with advanced cancer that hasn’t tried this yet.
Six weeks later my post-surgical PSA numbers blew the doctors away. You know it’s bad when 3 doctors come into the waiting room. It was really high – the highest the doctors had seen post-surgery from a procedure where they thought they might have gotten it all. Pre-surgery my PSA was 6.6 and post-surgery it was a whopping 3.4. Two days later it was even higher. My cancer was growing like crazy. Another CT/bone scan was ordered immediately. In a period of just ten weeks, I went from nothing on scans to having 2 metastatic spots on pelvic bones. We went after it aggressively with hormone ablation and chemo.
Chemo was really harsh, and I wouldn’t want to do it again. It probably slowed the cancer down by 9 months, but I dealt with 6 months of chemo-induced sickness. I still deal with some of the side effects today.
About 4 months after finishing 6 rounds of chemo, I had the metastatic lesion biopsied because I just felt like something was wrong. Sure enough there was a small population of cells still growing. Another CT scan showed the nodules had increased in size and a new one had formed.
So I got to the source – down to the DNA, and discovered the molecular abnormalities that were fueling my cancer. I had genomic sequencing of the primary and metastatic lesions that we biopsied. This opened up a new world of precision medicine treatments.
What we found is that my cancer was using a signaling pathway called PI3K – I had clear hyperactivity along this pathway. Standard treatments don’t go after that in a targeted way.
I found clinical trials that were testing drugs that inhibit that pathway (both PI3K and MTOR). My oncologist helped me pick the trial that he felt was best, and I called the PI and drug company sponsoring this phase 1 trial.
I wanted in, but they had a 6 month waiting list. I said “But I have sequencing data. I know your drug is trying to inhibit the same pathway that my cancer uses to grow.” They were really surprised. “You have sequencing data?” They told me to hold tight.
In a few hours I got a return call and was invited to visit the clinical trial site for evaluation. I enrolled in the study, and I’m happy to say that since I started that trial 12months ago, the cancer has been stable. I have no new lesions, and no increase in size of the existing ones. It seems that the cancer is dying away. Precision medicine worked for me. And if my cancer becomes resistant down the road, we’ll just sequence again, find out the new activated mutations and shut them down too.
So my very first thing I tell anybody with advanced cancer – get sequenced! We are all unique. Nobody’s cancer is the same. Standards of care are built on population averages. You have to understand what is fueling your cancer in order to effectively go after it. The standard of care for metastatic prostate cancer wasn’t enough for me. If I can’t eradicate my disease entirely I’m going to at least contain it, using science and technology to guide my care.
How did I learn? Dr. Google was one way. I go deep when I research and this was no different. I read everything I could and talked to a lot of people (both doctors and patients). I studied genomics and precision medicine. I was also lucky enough to be working for a company that is helping to usher in this new era of precision medicine – Intel. And because of my outcome, I feel obligated to share what I know to potential help others.
Honestly, I feel like my life has more purpose now. I’d rather not have had cancer, but I was dealt these cards. I try and turn a negative into a positive.
When you are faced with their own mortality, people realize they want to leave the world a better place. So now I focus a lot more on my family and spending time with them, living in the moment. I find purpose in helping others with cancer directly. I support research for cancer detection and treatments, working with patient-focused charities. My work at Intel is using technology to accelerate precision/personalized medicine, too.
I want to do my part to accelerate this, and finally turn cancer into a manageable disease.
If I had the benefit of knowing what I know now, I would have went in for physicals and asked to get screened. I have learned that once you are presented with symptoms, it can be too late. I wish my cancer would have been detected earlier. On the treatment side, I wonder if things could have been different. Did surgery just inflame the growth? In hindsight, chemo wasn’t for me.
Could I have tried targeted therapy sooner? I wish I could have sequenced up front and then acted accordingly.
But sequencing analysis is expensive, and insurance often doesn’t cover it for people who haven’t already tried the standard of care. Trials might not have been an option until I exhausted the standard of care. Sadly, hitting cancer with standard care can make it more resistant to treatment, so it’s frustrating that I had to go through steps that made my cancer tougher before I could get the right treatment for my specific disease. In the end, I probably did everything I could, but it’s the precision medicine path that really made a difference, that will extend my life significantly.