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Longer, Better Lives for Prostate Cancer Patients

Iowa's largest Urology clinic has opened its new Bone Health Clinic to help patients live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.


Prostate Cancer
Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

For many people, the aging process can be accompanied by decreasing bone density, which can lead to painful and debilitating fractures. Unfortunately, this can be accelerated by androgen deprivation therapy—a common treatment for men with prostate cancer. However, the 400 prostate cancer patients who are cared for each year at The Iowa Clinic Urology Department now have other options, available through a new Bone Health Clinic.

“We recognized the additional healthcare needs of men with prostate cancer,” says Kalee Gerdes, PA-C, who works with The Iowa Clinic’s nine board-certified Urologists to coordinate and deliver these life-enhancing treatments.

“Our main goals are to increase life expectancy while maintaining quality of life,” she says.

New Drugs Improve Bone Health

Gerdes explains that testosterone drives prostate cancer. To block the production of testosterone, thereby slowing the spread of the cancer, most prostate cancer patients receive androgen deprivation therapy (Lupron). “That’s good for treating the cancer, but a possible side effect is bone loss,” she says.

To prevent bone loss, the Bone Health Clinic provides two new drug treatments for patients receiving androgen deprivation therapy injections:

If the cancer has not spread to the bone, a drug called Prolia® is given by injection once every six months to increase bone density and strengthen bones and, therefore, help prevent fractures.

If the cancer has spread to the bone, a different medication—Xgeva®—is given monthly. “Once cancer has spread to the bone, those spots are extremely fragile. Xgeva® is designed to prevent pathological fractures,” Gerdes says.

To monitor bone health, each patient also receives bone-density testing once every two years.

Customized Treatment Plan May Delay Time to Chemotherapy

Provenge® is the first and only FDA-approved immunotherapy for advanced prostate cancer. It’s most appropriate for men whose disease progressed while taking androgen deprivation therapy, who don’t require pain medication, and who generally function well.

Provenge works by reprogramming an individual’s own immune cells to attack prostate cancer cells. Although it does not cure prostate cancer, it is clinically proven to help extend life in certain men with advanced prostate cancer.

“The most exciting aspect about being able to offer Provenge is that we’re on the front edge of using immunotherapy to treat prostate cancer. Being able to provide this to our patients is very rewarding,” Gerdes says.

Robert Zeis, 69, agrees. First diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, Zeis is a patient of Carl Meyer, M.D., one of nine board-certified Urologists with The Iowa Clinic. “When Dr. Meyer told me Provenge had been approved for cancer patients in an advanced stage of the disease, it really excited me. It’s one of the best improvements in the treatment of the disease in years,” he says.

The vaccine is custom-made for each patient. Here’s how:

Plasma is removed from the patient’s blood over a few hours by special machine at LifeServe Blood Center in Des Moines. Zeis says, “It took about four hours. The whole process is pretty comfortable because you’re laying back in a recliner.”

Those cells are then sent to an FDA-approved lab in Atlanta, where they are combined with Provenge. When these cells are infused into the patient, they activate the immune system to attack prostate cancer cells.

Three or four days later, the Provenge-activated cells are returned to the doctor’s office and delivered back into the patient via I.V. (intravenous) process. Zeis, whose cells were returned to his body at The Iowa Clinic’s Urology department, says, “That took about an hour.”

After completing the regimen, Zeis says, “I feel better. I still have my bad days and I have my good days, but I think the combination of the treatments (Provenge in addition to other prescribed medications) is helping me fight the disease.

“Whenever I go to The Iowa Clinic, I always leave feeling better than when I got there. The staff is just wonderful. Everyone I’ve dealt with knows their business. They are oriented toward people. They keep your spirits up. That’s an intangible and it works for me,” Zeis says.

“To be at this stage of life with this disease and be able to receive the care and treatments now available, you have to feel fortunate,” Zeis adds.

The Benefits of Provenge®

For men with advanced prostate cancer. It is clinically proven to prolong life. It has mild side effects, including low-grade fevers or body aches, which typically begin with treatment. Side effects resolve within 2 to 3 days. The treatment course is short.

To learn if you may be a candidate for treatment at the Bone Health Clinic, contact The Iowa Clinic Men’s Center at (515) 875-9801.

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