New Hope in the Fight Against Advanced Prostate Cancer

June 21, 2023 Providence News Team

PLUVICTO operates like a homing missile that looks specifically for PSMA+ antibodies.

Last year Providence St. Jude became one of the first in Southern California to offer an innovative new approach to treating metastatic prostate cancer.

And for Barry McKinley, the impact of that new treatment—called Pluvicto—can be measured in many more nights playing softball, days spent surfing, and weekends dedicated to grandchildren. When he was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer in 2017, chemotherapy and hormone therapy successfully controlled it. But by 2022, his PSA numbers were back up in the high 30s and the very aggressive cancer had spread.

A new targeted therapy—capable of identifying and killing cells that express PSMA, a prostate cancer biomarker—was showing good results against metastatic prostate cancers in clinical trials. As FDA approval for Pluvicto moved closer, Barry was foremost in the thoughts of David Park, MD, Medical Director of the Providence St. Jude Crosson Cancer Institute. “We had been carefully following the therapy’s outcomes and moved quickly to become one of the nation’s first approved sites,” explains Dr. Park. “There were other treatment options available, including some new clinical trials we had just opened, but this targeted radioisotope had the most potential to reverse the trajectory of Barry’s cancer.” 

So, at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the phone rang and Barry got the news that he would be treated with the first-ever molecular-targeted therapy for prostate cancer. “Dr. Park could have waited until the next day to tell me,” explains the retired entrepreneur and grandfather of seven. “But he was so excited for me to have this option.”

After Barry’s first IV infusion of Pluvicto,  his PSA numbers dropped 10 points. After his second infusion, they fell another 10—falling even further after the third. Scheduled for three more treatments, one every six weeks, Barry says side effects are very minimal, allowing him to maintain a full schedule of pickleball, family events, serving as a SCORE mentor to help new business owners succeed, and softball games, four to five times a week. 

Unlike traditional radiation or chemotherapy, which can’t distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells, Pluvicto operates like a homing missile that looks specifically for PSMA+ antibodies. “Once in the bloodstream, its search-and-destroy capability can reach prostate cancer cells anywhere in the body,” explains Yung Lyou, MD, a Crosson Cancer Institute genitourinary oncologist who specializes in prostate, kidney and bladder cancers. “Pluvicto’s radioisotope attaches to the cancer cells and, once absorbed, releases radiation to kill it.”

Pluvicto is currently approved for PMSA-positive metastatic prostate cancers that are no longer responding to hormone therapy or chemotherapy—a category a growing number of men fall into. Ongoing research at Providence St. Jude Crosson Cancer Institute is evaluating the benefits of using the targeted therapy earlier in treatment.

According to Dr. Lyou, therapies like Pluvicto represent an important shift: from treating cancer according to its location, to targeting its specific molecular structure. “Cancer treatment has traditionally been a numbers game: for instance, chemotherapy has worked for many people with this cancer, so we’ll start there and in three months we’ll know if it’s working,” he explains. “With Pluvicto we can first determine those most likely to benefit—identifying PSMA-positive cancer cells through PET scans—and then deliver radiation directly to those cells, bypassing healthy cells and tissue.”

Stage IV metastatic cancers are currently considered incurable, but Dr. Park says the road toward changing that is paved with adding months or a year at a time— a goal that drives the hospital’s cancer researchers and clinical trials program. “Giving someone more time to see a daughter get married, plan more family vacations or teach your grandchildren something important—these are important victories.”

Barry is one of those victories, and the 77-year-old former businessman—having started and eventually sold 10 separate businesses in five different fields—says he intends to move forward the same way he began: trusting God with the things beyond his control and not wasting time worrying. Says the Yorba Linda resident: “I’m blessed by God to be in the care of such talented doctors. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

To learn more, please call the Fred A. Jordan Family Radiation Oncology Center at 714-446-5632. 

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The Providence News Team brings you the updates to keep you informed about what's happening across the organizational ecosystem. From partnerships to new doctor announcements, we are committed to keeping you informed.

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