Health Team

Stem cells, chemo can beat testicular cancer

Posted February 28, 2012
Updated February 29, 2012

— Stem cell transplants done in conjunction with chemotherapy are offering hope to men with advanced testicular cancer.

About a year ago, David Alston, 42, went to his doctor for some odd symptoms, including "feeling numb in one leg for a couple of seconds," he said.

Alston had testicular cancer. Although it's rare, the disease is the most common malignancy for men aged 15 to 35.

Cycling legend Lance Armstrong survived it, as do most patients who are diagnosed and treated early.

In Alston's case, though, "by the time we had pretty much nailed down the diagnosis, it had spread. It had just gone all over the place," he said.

"He underwent conventional chemotherapy, tolerated that fairly well," said UNC Hospitals oncologist Dr. Paul Armistead.

Alston went into remission, but one tumor reactivated two months ago.

Armistead suggested tandem stem cell transplants. The treatment has been offered for several years, primarily at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, but is now available at UNC Hospitals.

Testicular cancer is very sensitive to chemotherapy. At a certain level, though, the drug becomes too toxic and suppresses the blood count, which can become life-threatening condition. Treatment is stopped at that point, sometimes before the cancer is truly beaten.

If the cancer recurs, a transplant using the patient's own bone marrow stem cells can help as he gets higher doses of chemotherapy.

"For each transplant, we're doing a cycle of chemotherapy," Armistead said. "We infuse stem cells; we let the (blood) counts recover. Once the counts have recovered, we repeat it."

"Giving me back my stem cells is going to build back my immune system," said Alston, who is still in the process of harvesting stem cells to be used when new rounds of chemotherapy begin.

Alston has done his own research on the treatment and hopes it will be the final knock-out punch for his cancer.

"I think this entire process and what I've learned about it has definitely given me some hope," he said.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • wildpig777 Mar 5, 2012

    i got news for you prozac-- no women have ever died from testicualuar cancer.

  • LuvLivingInCary Feb 29, 2012

    liberal talking points and you are so wrong. ccd from the net.

    In the United States in 2007 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), 223,307 men developed prostate cancer, and 29,093 men died from the disease.1

    the fact remains that the amount of dollars raised for female related diseases does not come close to male ones.

  • carrboroyouth Feb 29, 2012

    And how much have you donated to the cause, Prozac? What a pointless, negative comment.

    Perhaps breast cancer is focused on because it is so incredibly common; did you ever consider that? 8,000 testicular cases versus 203,000 breast cancer cases every year.

    It's not about gender, it's about deaths and how many people it will affect. I believe that if we can unlock new treatments to a particular kind of cancer, it would hopefully lead to developments in other cancers too. The use of a person's stem cells is absolutely a possibility to help many people fight this terrible disease.

  • LuvLivingInCary Feb 29, 2012

    it's funny how people can donate gobs of money to women breast cancer but nothing is ever said and done for men.