GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There is a new treatment option in Grand Rapids for men with advanced prostate cancer.
A high-tech uExplorer full body scanner was installed at BAMF Health on the Medical Mile in May. Now, it’s being put to use. Ron Foster is one of the first nine men to go through the 3D scan this week.
“Gives me hope. This is sort of the last opportunity at this point in time,” Foster said.
His doctor first noticed his prostate-specific antigen protein levels were high — a symptom something was wrong — in 1994. It took doctors 27 biopsies over several years to find the cancer. By then, it had spread to other parts of his body.
“At that time, they didn’t have the technology that we have today,” Foster said.
The St. Augustine, Florida, man has been through a number of procedures over the years to keep the cancer in check. A uExplorer total-body PET scan diagnosis and follow-up treatment in Germany has given him hope.
Thanks to BAMF, that same treatment, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March, is now available in Grand Rapids, saving Foster more trips to Germany.
“We are cautiously and terribly optimistic about it,” Foster said.
Prostate cancer is not just difficult for the patient. Loved ones are also dealing with the unknown.
“You just don’t know. You always have this feeling of the what if,” Chris Fraiser-Lee of Grand Rapids said.
Her husband Gary is also among the nine men scanned at BAMF’s Grand Rapids clinic this week. His first treatments were in Germany.
One of the benefits of the uExplorer is a lower dose of radiation needed to treat the cancer.
“He had had no side effects at all,” Fraiser-Lee said of her husband. “His number have dropped tremendously. And he’s always felt great.”
UExplorer is a first-of-its-kind medical 3D scanner that captures the patient’s entire body in one position. Two things set it apart from others. The first is time. A normal scanner takes between 20 and 45 minutes to complete a scan. UExplorer produces images in about 10 minutes. The other is that the images it produces give doctors a better idea of what they’re dealing with.
“It identifies only those cells that have the target we’re going after and then the therapy targets those cells only with the specific protein on the surface,” Dr. Brandon Mancini, medical director at BAMF’s Grand Rapid Clinic, said. “What we know is that because of the precision of the treatment, treating the cell from inside out, there’s absolutely less collateral damage, less impact to the normal surrounding tissues.”
The speed of the scans will also allow more patients to be evaluated.
“It reduces the scanning time tremendously. And that allows us to cater as many people as required,” Dr. Harshad Kulkarni, chief medical advisor for BAMF, said.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Most of them are 65 or older. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men, behind lung cancer.
For men like Foster, dealing with stage 4 prostate cancer, the new diagnostic and treatment regimen is providing hope.
“They’re keeping me alive with it,” Foster said. “And we’re terribly thankful.”