LGBT Patients Approaching Cancer Learn New Bio-Trends and Precision in Treatments

In Chicago, new approaches to the treatment of gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer. Sue Brecher reports. (Published Wednesday, April 10, 2019)

After a 42-year journey, Donald Marsh still remembers how he felt on Jan. 5, 2015 when a doctor ran his prostate with a needle.

“I’m like, ‘wow!’” Marsh said, clearly proud of his physical condition. “They’re talking about curing me.”

But as three powerful treatments performed by doctors at Advocate Lutheran General Health System in Park Ridge showed, that wasn’t going to be the case. Marsh’s cancer had grown too deeply into his body to be stopped with drugs alone.

“There’s no getting rid of it because it grew into my prostate,” he said.

Since that day, Marsh has undergone radiation therapy and surgery.

Marsh had another genetic predisposition to prostate cancer, but the genetic defect that has a more lethal effect is the ApoE-4 gene. All gay and bisexual men with the ApoE-4 gene face an even higher risk of developing prostate cancer than heterosexual men.

And yet, every year across the country, roughly 15,000 men with the ApoE-4 gene — roughly one in 50 — face the diagnosis. Many do not survive prostate cancer’s first round of treatment.

“These are life-threatening cancers for a lot of these patients,” said Dr. William Cryne, medical director of prostate cancer treatment at Advocate Lutheran General Health System in Park Ridge.

Dr. Cryne and his team recently developed an alternative to those medically painful treatments by using older techniques to focus on treating the prostate as a tumor micro-organism.

There are two approaches in play, called Radical Prostatectomy and Radiosurgery. Neither involves cutting open the patient’s abdomen.

In a landmark case from Chicago, a 71-year-old man with high genetic risk who had trouble getting surgery, died from his prostate cancer. Without radiation treatment, it could have killed him within months.

Now, doctors and a patient have proven that it is possible to kill off tumors if the prostate remains within the man’s body.

Dr. Cryne and his team say they can be expected to double the number of patients in the system who receive radiation treatment.

“Tissue is cancer. And that tumor cell is a cancer cell,” Dr. Cryne said. “Prostate cancer is a cancer cell.”

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