VANCOUVER – Michael Izen is thankful for one year. It was a year he didn’t think he would have not too long ago. After surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone treatment for advanced and aggressive prostate cancer, Michael learned the disease had spread to his liver.
“The prisoners were loose in the building,” he says with a laugh about the cancer cells travelling through his blood stream and infecting his liver.
He was told at the time he probably had about 12 months to live. But there was one last strategy to employ against the cancer-cell prison break. Michael’s care team at BC Cancer, including Dr. Kim Chi, recognized that a drug used to treat ovarian cancer might have an effect on Michael’s prostate cancer.
That’s because genetic testing indicated Michael was a carrier of the BRCA2 gene mutation. Although it’s more commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancer, emerging research has shown that the BRCA2 mutation is also linked to a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
The drug Michael was given specifically targets tumours linked to BRCA2. He started on the drug two years ago and credits it with helping him live a year longer than expected. During that time, he focused on family, including his wife and step-daughter, and also wrote a book describing his experience with prostate cancer.
Michael’s initial stage 4 diagnosis five years ago was a surprise as prostate cancer is more often diagnosed in older men and he was only 45 at the time. He considers the BRCA2 mutation a significant contributing factor.
Having just turned 51, Michael’s treatment options have now run out. “I don’t know if I’ll hit 52,” he reports. But he is thankful for the unexpected extra year he got, and wants everyone who contributed to the development of his “miracle” drug, as well as the hereditary testing that identified the BRCA2 mutation, that it was time well spent: “A whole year of life? That’s a pretty good year.”
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For more information please contact:
Rosalind Duane, Communications Specialist, BC Cancer Foundation