Friends For Life: Testicular Cancer “Miracle Drug”

EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – About 40 years ago testicular cancer was a death sentence.

Nearly 90 percent of testicular cancer patients died because it’s such a fast moving form of cancer.

Today it’s an entirely different story.

Not only do 95-percent of testicular cancer patients survive, the majorities are cured of the disease.

It’s all thanks to one drug and get this, it was developed right down the road at MSU.

“I still look back like, what just happened?”

It’s been a roller coaster ride for Tyler Navin and his family.

Just last spring, after battling unexplained back-pain, he got a diagnosis he never saw coming.

“I did an X-Ray on my chest because I was also having some chest pain and that’s when my family doctor was like ‘whoa,’” said Tyler Navin, Testicular Cancer survivor.

Stage 3 Testicular Cancer was quickly taking over Tyler’s body.

But as he, his wife and three daughters faced the fear of cancer together, there was some good news. Testicular cancer can be treated and even cured quickly, thanks to a so-called “miracle” drug.

“When we see a patient with testicular cancer. We say hey, we can do a good job for this patient,” said Dr. Muhammad Hamdan, oncologist, Sparrow Hospital.

Doctor Muhammad Hamdan is the Sparrow oncologist who treated Navin. He says a chemo drug called Cisplatin helped save Navin’s life.

This is like the ‘Penicillin for oncology.’

While Cisplatin is used to treat numerous forms of cancer, Dr. Hamdan says the Cisplatin regiment is a game changer for testicular cancer.

In some cases eradicating tumors almost immediately.

“After the first treatment my back pain was gone, my neck went down, lymph nodes went down.”

But even with instant affects, the treatment with Cisplatin is grueling.

It was five days, seven hours per day in a row.

That went on for 12 weeks.

Navin’s hair fell out as he battled nausea all while being flushed with fluids to protect his kidneys from the toxicity of the drug.

“I lost about 40 pounds in less than month.”

But three months later Navin walked out of Sparrow completely cancer free, having no idea that the powerful drug that had just saved his life was developed just a few miles away at MSU.

The brain-child behind it is Barnett Rosenberg.

“He apparently came out to the crowd of grad students and made a comment to the affect that, I’ve just found a new anti-cancer agent,” said James Hoeschele, Adj, chemistry professor, Eastern Michigan University.

That was 1965 and just three years later, Cisplatin, a platinum based drug, was shown to shrink large tumors.

It was a very exciting time as you can imagine.

James Hoeschele was an MSU student during the Cisplatin discovery era, then later worked alongside Rosenberg in his lab.

From 1968 to 1972 Hoeschele says Rosenberg’s lab on campus was buzzing as a team of scientists worked to develop the drug and send it to clinical trials.

Trials it almost never passed due to its toxicity on the body.

“That was my role, I was to do biological distribution studies, where did it go, what organs did it hit and how long did it stay?”

Those findings showed Cisplatin to be especially lethal to the kidneys.

Hoeschele says they feared the drug would never be approved by the FDA because of it.

But then another major discovery came as a study on Cisplatin showed when paired with two other drugs, the effects on testicular cancer were astounding.

Cisplatin saved testicular cancer and testicular cancer saved Cisplatin.

Now decades later, Cisplatin continues to be the backbone of treatment for testicular and many other cancers.

“I would say 60 percent of cancer utilizes Cisplatin in one way or another. It’s been an amazing success story.”

A success story that has saved countless lives, including Navin’s.

Just four months after his treatment ended, he’s healthy, back on his bike, racing more than 30 miles at a time and all while realizing every moment with his family is a gift.

“I hear stories of friends of friends of family who have cancer and sometimes it’s like why am I the lucky one?”

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