Prostate Cancer Treatment Drug Provenge Testimony
Joel Nowak, MSW
Director, Advanced Disease and Advocacy, Malecare Prostate Cancer Support
MR. NOWAK: Good afternoon. I’d like to first say that I nor any of my family members to the best of my knowledge have any financial interest in the sponsor. My name is Joel T. Nowak, and I’m here today both as a consumer and also as a representative of the advocacy groups Raise a Voice and MaleCare, for which I serve as the Program Director for Advanced Prostate Cancer.
I am 56 years old, I live in Brooklyn, and I am a 3-time cancer survivor. I have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, kidney cancer and prostate cancer, advanced prostate cancer. The cancer that scares me the most, probably based on my condition, is the prostate cancer. Fortunately, both the thyroid and the kidney cancer are currently under control, but the prostate cancer is not. My initial diagnosis was in August of 2001 and I had a laparoscopic prostatectomy. In December of 2005 I was diagnosed with recurrent advanced prostate cancer. This is 11 not a curable disease. That’s the key. It is not curable, at least not yet.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the expected mortality rate for advanced prostate cancer is over 50 percent within 36 months of diagnosis. If you take the statistical next step, since I’ve already exhausted 16 of those months, which means I may have only but 20 months left to be on this Earth. What are my treatment choices? Unfortunately they’re fairly non existent with other than one exception.
Those of us who suffer with advanced prostate cancer have already gone through the mill of barbaric treatments. We’ve had our prostates removed or radiated, often leaving us with varying degrees of incontinence and impotence, and then 30 percent of us suffer a recurrence. This signals the beginning of our clock’s final countdown on this Earth. We try to buy a little more time. We try salvage radiation or surgery. We start a hormone blockade that leaves us as physical and chemical eunuchs. We lose the little sexual ability that we may have managed to cobble together and trade it for hot flashes, loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density, peripheral neuropathy, mood swings, and a host of other ailments. Despite the suffering that we endure, our cancer continues to march on. Now our only option to survive a little longer as it exists today is chemotherapy, where we have to introduce into our bodies chemicals that will hopefully kill the cancer, but will also kill us.
Provenge will not cure my disease, that’s clear, but it does offer an opportunity to extend my life. Even a 4.5-month life extension, which probably doesn’t sound like a lot to those of you who are blessedly healthy, but to me this is a 20 percent increase of my life expectancy. I still will not live long enough to see my son successful in the theater, or my younger son fulfill his dream of going to law school, or more importantly to ever meet any of my grandchildren. But I will have some additional time to hold my wife and laugh with my children, and therefore, I wish to urge this committee to recommend that the FDA approve the pending application. I appreciate this opportunity to have addressed you and thank you so much.
DR. MULÉ: Thank you, Mr. Nowak.
Prostate Cancer Treatment Drug Provenge Testimony Darryl