Medical Minute 1-4:

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

Ray Schmidlin and Robert Obin. Two men with prostate cancer who know the disease will kill them.

"It's a matter of when."

They've both been treated with Provenge, a therapeutic vaccine using their own blood to slow down the cancer. Certain cells are harvested, altered and infused back into the body to help the immune system attack the cancer.

Studies show it can improve a patient's median survival rate by four months, and it reduced patient's risk of death by 22-and-a-half percent. Robert believes it's the reason he's still around.

"It's not going to cure me, but that will help me to give me, I don't know, more days?" said Robert Obin, Has prostate cancer.

Ray says the immunotherapy took a toll on him. The active grandfather tells us he was strapped down for several hours at a time during six weeks of treatment.

"And that was pretty stressful. Because you couldn't, you couldn't move," said Ray Schmidlin, Has prostate cancer.

He's not sure the discomfort and confinement was worth it.

"If I'm going to live 60 months, I don't want to spend the money and the time to live 64 months."

"I think it's a controversial topic."

Ray's physician, Doctor Jorge Garcia of the Cleveland Clinic says there are misconceptions about Provenge.

"The patient automatically believes if I get the treatment, I'm going to live four months more, and that's inaccurate," said Jorge A. Garcia, M.D., Director Advanced Prostate Cancer Program Cleveland Clinic.

Garcia says some live longer but some don't make it to four months. And it's not for all prostate cancer patients. It's designed for those who show few or no symptoms, but have a form of the disease that has spread and is resistant to hormonal therapy. Garcia says it doesn't lower PSA levels, shrink tumors, or reduce symptoms like bone pain

"But yet, you're likely to live longer."

While the doctor believes Provenge is a breakthrough, he says it's important patients like Ray and Robert know it may or may not be the right option for them.

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