However, after 4 years, his cancer started progressing with speed. He and his wife discussed his case with many cancer experts. Finally, they met Dr. Akash Patnaik, a renowned national authority on prostate cancer.
By that time, Ralph's cancer had already grown significantly and reached stage 4. It had expanded to other parts of the body and became extremely difficult to control. FDA-approved traditional methods and treatments were no longer effective for him.
Immunotherapy Clinical Trial with a Promising ApproachWith no standard therapies left as an option, Dr. Patnaik suggested the family consider enrolling Ralph in an immunotherapy clinical trial.
This promising new approach is aimed at enabling a patient's T cells to become an efficient weapon in fighting off cancer. So, unlike chemotherapy, which can be toxic to cells that are healthy, this approach improves the immune system so the body can mount its own defense. The drugs involved in this immunotherapy are called checkpoint inhibitors.
Dr. Patnaik was leading the second phase of a clinical trial, called CheckMate 650, for prostate cancer in men. He enrolled Ralph in this clinical trial which used a combination of two drugs – ipilimumab, and nivolumab that boost the immune system.
"In particular, the responses to checkpoint inhibitors in advanced prostate cancer have been few and far between," Patnaik said.
This Approach WorkedThis new approach showed positive results for Ralph. As he started getting the infusions of the drugs, his cancer started backing down. His only side effect was a persistent itch, but an ointment helped him get through it.
His PSA level, a disease severity measurement, which was over 500 when his trial started, began to plummet. By the time Ralph received his last infusion of the drugs, his PSA level had gone way down.
Ralph is in recovery now. His PSA levels are now about .04 – virtually undetectable – and staying down. Ralph and his wife are thankful to Dr.Patnaik and his efforts for getting him into the immunotherapy clinical trial that ultimately helped him recover when all other options ran out.