Urologist on front lines of prostate cancer research
More than 240,000 U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute, and almost 17,000 of those prostate cancer diagnoses will occur in Texas.
In most cases, the disease is detected in its early or intermediate stages, before the cancer has spread to the rest of the body. However, even with early detection and after surgical or radiation treatments, prostate cancer returns in up to 30 percent of patients diagnosed with the disease. It's a problem that local urologist Dr. Steven Sukin hopes to minimize.
Sukin's practice, part of Texas Oncology's Texas Urology Specialists division, is currently conducting a Phase III clinical drug trial that aims to improve localized prostate cancer treatment and prevent recurrence.
"This is a trial that's trying to improve initial treatment of prostate cancer for patients who have localized, intermediate-risk prostate cancer," Sukin said. "The trial is going to be looking at whether we can improve the cure rates, potentially, with the use of gene therapy."
The drug, known as ProstAtak, aims to fight cancer in two ways: by killing prostate cancer cells and enabling an immune response that improves a localized cure. ProstAtak is in the last stage of the clinical trial process after having successfully completed Phase I and Phase II studies. In the Phase II clinical trial, prostate cancer recurrence was reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent.
The drug is being developed by Boston-based biotech company Advantagene under the direction of Dr. Estuardo Aguilar-Cordova. Sukin researched the potential benefits of gene therapy for prostate cancer under Aguilar-Cordova during his residency at Baylor College of Medicine.
"What's pretty neat about this is that, here we are 13 years after I finished my time with him, and he's been able to bring this to Phase III trials for men with prostate cancer," Sukin said.
The ProstAtak clinical trial is still accepting new patients. Eligibility for the trial is determined based on a number of factors, including age, cancer type, cancer stage, medical history and physical activity. Patients who are interested in being considered for participation in the ProstAtak trial can find more information on Sukin's website or call to arrange an appointment.
Two out of three patients in the clinical trial will receive ProstAtak, while the third will receive a placebo.
"Two out of three patients who join the trial will potentially have the benefit that we're hoping to see," Sukin said. "Important information to give the patients is that ... if they were choosing radiation therapy as their treatment, they're still going to get that accepted radiation therapy … they will still get the standard of care, plus a potential benefit."
On the weekends, when he's not seeing patients and participating in a major clinical trial, Sukin enjoys running and cycling. Originally from Billings, Mont., Sukin is also an avid skier who makes an effort to take winter ski trips to his home state whenever possible.
For more information on Sukin or the ProstAtak clinical trial, call Texas Urology Specialists at 281-351-5174 or visit www.drstevensukinurology.com. You can also connect with Sukin on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.
Megan Mattingly-Arthur is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.