Carlos J. Castro transferred his care to Elizabeth Kessler, MD, University of Colorado Cancer Center member, after learning about a clinical trial that gave him a new treatment option for his stage 4 prostate cancer.
Carlos: My name is Carlos J. Castro and I'm 48. I have a pretty big family, with a total of 5 grandsons and one baby girl on the way. What led up to it was, I was going to the clinic to help with weight loss. I got a test and they were like "hey man, I think you better go talk to your doctor we detected some levels that were pretty high". And I was like "what's that" and they were like "your PSA is like 52 and that is pretty outrageous."
I had stage 4 prostate cancer, it had metastasized and it was pretty much all over. I started to freak out, what are we going to do. I started looking at everything online and started doing research. I started trying things along with the chemotherapy and the stuff that the hospital recommended. None of it was really working. My levels were continuing to rise. My conditions were getting worse.
Dr. Kessler: Carlos was originally receiving care in a teaching clinic where our oncology fellows rotate. The fellow had known that we had an interesting clinical trial ongoing using high doses of testosterone that may influence aspects of Carlos' quality of life that were really important to him, as well as, offer a novel treatment approach.
Prostate cancer is a hormone dependent cancer, and we really actually try to lower the levels of testosterone because we think that it is a primary fuel source for the cancer cells. Over time the cancer cells adapt to that low testosterone level.
There had been some emerging research across the country using really high doses of testosterone to kind of combat this adaptation. It didn't make sense, but it seems to work really well. And biologically, there are some good hypotheses of why it works.
We then knew that at some point that cancer may outsmart that. So we built in this kind of switch mechanism where if we were seeing signs that the high dose testosterone was not working against the cancer, we would abruptly kind of switch to a really low testosterone state again. And that was based off of research that patient's cancers can sometimes respond really well to that switchback down to a low testosterone state.
Carlos: The study medication just took my levels all the way down to zero.
Dr. Kessler: He acknowledges that even though he's on maybe a bit more of an intensive therapy, he feels better than he when he wasn't.
Carlos: I feel like I'm actually a normal person. Again, to be honest with you. I think it reflects a little bit at work, because for a long time, when I first started this journey, I wasn't able to do what I'm doing now. But I think because of this, no, no, no, no, no. I know because of this. This is why.
Dr. Kessler: Certainly the opportunity to be a part of the clinical research that's ongoing here is something that I think is really special about the CU Cancer Center.
Carlos: I'm definitely here today because of the clinical trials.
Dr. Kessler: The other aspect is just the overall comprehensive care that he's received. So he has the opportunity to talk with our social workers to meet with the research team. We've got advanced practitioners that work with him.
Carlos: Every step along the way the Anschutz cancer team has been a very important part of my journey helping me to maintain just who I am.
Dr. Kessler: People here really care about what they're doing and are really invested in advancing the science while also taking care of people as individuals.
Carlos: This journey has been tough on but you just got to take it day by day. Get a good support team and definitely learn how to laugh.