(BPT) – Joel H., 62, was once more active than most people his age – walking from the fuel truck to the plane and back, multiple times a day at a South Carolina airport.
“It used to be nothing to put 10 miles on my feet every single day,” Joel said. “It can be difficult to even walk my dogs around the neighborhood now.”
In 2015, Joel was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and had more than half of his prostate removed. Despite 38 radiation treatments and a hormone injection, the cancer metastasized to his hip, spine, sternum and shoulder.
“The initial diagnosis was incredibly difficult,” Joel’s wife Tracey remarked. “Even though I’m a nurse, I had never dealt with something like this in my career, so I was very nervous.”
Now five years later, Joel is still able to enjoy time with friends and family and cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals every week. Why? In part because of his doctor’s decision to take a personalized approach to his cancer therapy.
Determining a Different Treatment Path
Joel was feeling physically well after his initial diagnosis and continued to work the strenuous role of an airline refueler in South Carolina. However, his cancer had other plans as it continued to spread throughout his body. His first oncologist suggested that it was time to begin chemotherapy.
Joel had watched his own father battle stomach cancer and saw the detrimental effects chemotherapy had on both his physical and mental health.
“It definitely left an impression on me,” he said. “I saw that fear in someone I love, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
He was determined to find another viable option.
That’s when Joel and Tracey were introduced to Dr. Neal Shore from the Carolina Urologic Research Center, who presented them with an alternate treatment option – precision medicine.
Dr. Shore said the availability of comprehensive genomic testing, which can find targetable mutations in cancer’s DNA, is a key component to his approach.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of cancer care today is the ability to truly tailor treatment by analyzing the individual genomic makeup of a person’s cancer.”
In 2018, Dr. Shore ordered a liquid biopsy test for Joel from Foundation Medicine.
Joel’s genomic profiling report revealed specific gene mutations, making him eligible for a clinical trial designed on the basis of gene mutations. Earlier this year, an enhanced version of that test, called FoundationOne®Liquid CDx, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1
He said the trial “felt like a fresh start and a new outlook.”
Two years later, Joel remains in the same trial. He receives treatment from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have been more challenging if he had chosen the chemotherapy route.
“If we had listened to what the internet was saying about his life expectancy and how chemotherapy was the best option, Joel may have been gone by now,” Tracey said.
The couple said trusting Dr. Shore and his opinion on trying out precision medicine is the best decision they could have made.
“Everything about cancer is life-changing,” said Joel. “There are little things here and there that will never be the same, like taking long walks with my dogs and my high energy levels. But while it has altered my life, I’m just thankful it hasn’t ended it.”
Visit foundationmedicine.com for more information about comprehensive genomic profiling, including liquid biopsy.
Editor’s note: FoundationOne®Liquid CDx is for prescription use only and is a qualitative next-generation sequencing based in vitro diagnostic test for advanced cancer patients with solid tumors. The test analyzes 324 genes utilizing circulating cell-free DNA and is FDA-approved to report short variants in 311 genes and as a companion diagnostic to identify patients who may benefit from treatment with specific therapies (listed in Table 1 of the Intended Use) in accordance with the approved therapeutic product labeling. Additional genomic findings may be reported and are not prescriptive or conclusive for labeled use of any specific therapeutic product. Use of the test does not guarantee a patient will be matched to a treatment. A negative result does not rule out the presence of an alteration. Patients who are negative for companion diagnostic mutations should be reflexed to tumor tissue testing and mutation status confirmed using an FDA-approved tumor tissue test, if available. For the complete label, including diagnostic indications and complete risk information, please visit www.F1LCDxLabel.com.
1. Foundation Medicine, FDA Approves Foundation Medicine’s FoundationOne®Liquid CDx, a Comprehensive Pan-Tumor Liquid Biopsy Test with Multiple Companion Diagnostic Indications for Patients with Advanced Cancer, August 26, 2020