"Being in clinical trials has kept me alive and healthy"
Rollie Swingle was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer in January 2004, with lesions detected on his spine, ribs and right pelvis.
Because of the late stage, Rollie’s doctor told him the disease was incurable and that standard therapies were not enough. He urged him to join a clinical trial of a new treatment.
“I’m not one to sit back and say, Oh, woe is me,” says the 66-year-old Elk Grove resident. “I wanted to fight this cancer!”
Rollie joined the trial, and for the next six years enjoyed life as he had always done.
“We took cruises – one to Alaska, one to Rome and spent 12 days on the Mediterranean,” he said. “I played sports, I golfed. I spent time with my family. Nothing changed in my life other than the fact that I had this cancer.”
Regular check-ups, laboratory blood work and scans showed the disease was in check.
“But mine is a very aggressive form, and by last year my PSA count was on the rise again,” Rollie says.
Rollie’s prostate cancer had become resistant to the hormonal therapies, so he chose to try an approach that included a new drug that had shown promise in the laboratory and that researchers hoped might translate to effective treatment in humans.
“One of our main goals is to translate advances in cancer research from the lab to the clinic, or ‘from bench to bedside,’ so patients can safely receive breakthrough treatments as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Primo “Lucky” Lara, Associate Director of Translational Research at UC Davis and Rollie’s oncologist.
The experimental therapy worked well for seven months, and still there is no sign of recurrence of the cancer. But Rollie’s PSA has again risen, so Dr. Lara is putting his patient on another trial with a different drug combination.
“With every study he has been on, maybe we have been able to change the way his cancer has behaved,” says Dr. Lara. “We have added to his longevity.”
Rollie wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Some people think it’s risky to participate in trials,” he says. “For me, being in clinical trials has kept me alive and healthy. I honestly don’t think I would be here today without them.