Prostate Cancer Survivor
In 1998, Bob Hamilton was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer – it had metastasized to the bone. “It was the worst kind you can get,” Hamilton says.
Hamilton and his wife have lived in South Bend, Indiana since 1963. They winter in South Carolina now and his wife continues to run their family travel business from both locations.
“My doctor in Indiana said: ‘Don’t worry. We’ll keep you comfortable until you die in five years,’” Hamilton says. He didn’t like the sound of that, so he went to Chicago where he heard the same thing. Still unhappy with the prognosis, Hamilton went to the Mayo Clinic.
“At the Mayo Clinic they confirmed the diagnosis, but told me I should look up the guy who developed the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test… Dr. Gerald Murphy,” Hamilton says.
Straight to the Experts
At that time, Hamilton’s son worked at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Hamilton called him and asked him to help him find this Dr. Murphy.
“It turns out that Dr. Murphy worked right in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Cancer Foundation,” Hamilton says. So he called him up, told him about his cancer, and the next thing Hamilton knew, he was on a plane to Seattle.
Hamilton received hormone treatment under Dr. Murphy for the next five years, flying back and forth between Indiana and Seattle for treatment and to attend a special seminar for prostate cancer patients led by Dr. Murphy at the Seattle Center. It was quite the event with presentations from national leaders in cancer treatment and research, including Dr. Celestia Higano from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and UW Medical Center.
In January 2000, Dr. Murphy suffered a fatal heart attack. Hamilton was devastated. “I cried for an entire day,” he recalls. Then Hamilton remembered the Seattle seminar and Dr. Higano.
“Dr. Higano became my oncologist at that point,” Hamilton says. “I had a spot on my bone and Dr. Higano treated it with radiation back in 2002 or 2003. I was OK for about four or five years, and then my PSA started to rise again.”
Hamilton’s cancer was considered “hormone refractory,” meaning that the hormone therapy he had taken had failed to the stop the growth of his prostate cancer, which can happen a few months or even years after hormone therapy has been started.
Dr. Higano started Hamilton on a clinical study for an “anti-androgen” drug called MDV3100, synthesized by Dr. Charles Sawyers while at UCLA and developed by the San Francisco based pharmaceutical company Medivation. It is currently being tested in two Phase III clinical studies for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. A press release in 2011 reported that MDV3100 increased survival in patients who had already received the chemotherapy docetaxel. The second trial is still accruing patients in other countries.
So far, MDV3100 seems to be effective; Medivation has reported up to an 89 percent decrease in prostate specific antigen (PSA) serum levels after a month of taking the drug.
“My PSA is undetectable now,” Hamilton says. “There is no signs of cancer in my body. I’m not saying I don’t have cancer, just that it’s undetectable.” But he’s happy about that fact nonetheless.
There aren’t any side effects to the trial drug he’s on, but Hamilton says the hormone therapy (Lupron) took all the testosterone from his muscles. “It put my golf game in the gutter,” he says. He now teams up with his son and relies on his him to carry their game when they play against friends.
Hamilton comes to Seattle three times a year for scans and blood work. “I’ll probably shine in the dark pretty soon,” he jokes.
Extremely happy with the care he’s received at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Hamilton says, “Dr. Higano is one terrific doctor. I’m pleased to be her patient. And I think she’s pleased with where I am now.”
“Watching a success story like this unfold is what motivates us to conduct clinical research,” says Dr. Higano. “We dosed the first human with MDV3100 in the Phase I trial for which Mr. Hamilton volunteered. His willingness to participate in an early stage trial, even before we knew whether the drug was effective or not, paid off for him. More importantly, Mr. Hamilton and other patients who participated in the trial, made it possible for MDV3100 to advance the Phase III trials that will eventually lead to FDA approval and widespread availability of MDV3100 for men with prostate cancer.”