In new trial, Duke doctors hope copper will aid fight against prostate cancer
Posted August 9
Durham, N.C. — When prostate cancer is diagnosed late, there are few effective treatment options available.
The American Cancer Society estimates that prostate cancer will cause 26,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2017. Duke University researchers hope copper combined with an old drug will prevent or delay some of those deaths.
Retired Florida teacher Paul Gomulinski has always made health a priority. That's why the 68-year-old was surprised by prostate exam results and his urologist's prognosis.
"He said, 'You better get your things in order. You've got 1 to 2 years to live,'" Gomulinski said. "That was 14 years ago."
Gomulinski's cancer had spread. After chemotherapy failed, he joined trials for several study drugs but with no luck.
"(We were) reaching a point now where we're running out of things," Gomulinski said.
That's when he heard about a new drug trial involving a form of copper at Duke with a team of researchers including Dr. Tian Zhang.
"Prostate cancer cells take up more copper than regular body cells," Zhang said.
The copper is given in combination with the drug disulfiram, which is approved for treating people with alcoholism. Doctors hope it might also help with prostate cancer.
"We've shown that, combined, copper and disulfiram elicit more killing of prostate cancer cells," Zhang said.
Gomulinski is the first patient enrolled in the Poley Protocol, named for Neil Poley, who died from the disease two years ago.
"His son, Sam Poley, is the spearhead behind the funding of the Give One for Dad movement," Gomulinski said.
Sam Poley's effort made the Duke trial possible, and Gomulinski said he wants to make it count.
"This was the next new thing, and we've got to give it a shot," Gomulinski said. "We've got to go for it."