Bob Taylor knows how draining radiation can be on the body.
Each week, he drives patients down to the Veterans Administration clinic in Decatur for radiation therapy.
“It’s usually eight weeks worth of therapy, five days a week. By week five, they are usually pretty dragged out — it really takes a toll on your body,” said Taylor, a 72-year-old Gainesville resident.
So when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer late last year, he knew radiation wasn’t a treatment option he wanted to consider.
“I went to a local urologist, he took 12 biopsies and two came back cancerous. The first thing he did was recommend that I get a second opinion, then he presented the treatment options,” Taylor said.
Those treatment options — prostate removal, radiation or exposing the cancerous cells to extreme temperatures — weren’t what he wanted to consider.
With the help of his wife, Taylor set out to find a more viable alternative. After finding the name of the Atlanta-based Malizia Clinic online, Taylor called to make an appointment for a second opinion. That call ultimately lead to Taylor earning a first-place spot in medical history.
During his consultation at the clinic, Dr. Jaime Wong told Taylor there was an additional treatment option he may be interested in: the NanoKnife IRE System. That option is less invasive than the others, has a shorter recovery period and fewer potential complications.
“I was in the (Atlanta) operating room by around (7:45 a.m.) and was back home by 2 that afternoon,” Taylor said.
“There was no pain and no pain medication.”
The system has been used in around 250 cases worldwide, but Taylor’s surgery was the first time that the procedure has ever been performed on the entire prostate or by a urologist.
The NanoKnife IRE (irreversible electroporation) System uses electricity to kill cancerous cells.
“The (NanoKnife) probes create an electric field that create little defects in the surface of (cancer) cells,” Wong said. “These cells need a solid membrane to live, so this causes them to die.”
Unlike with treatment options like cryoablation , freezing the cancerous portions of the prostate, or radiofrequency ablation — exposing the cancerous cells to extreme heat — the NanoKnife doesn’t cause damage to surrounding tissue, nerves and blood vessels. Thus, it eliminates possible side effects like impotence or incontinence, Wong says.
Because the technology is relatively new, medical professionals are still trying to determine who the best candidates are for the NanoKnife procedure and what its side effects.
“We’re trying to look for better treatment options for this very common disease — it’s the most solid organ cancer in men in the United States,” Wong said.
“More than 200,000 men are diagnosed every year in the U.S., just over 30,000 men die every year from it. There are a lot more men being diagnosed than are dying, so that means we are doing a good job of treating it, but we could always do a better job.”
Since having the surgery three weeks ago, Taylor says he hasn’t had any major problems, especially nothing on par with what others who’ve had more invasive surgery have experienced.
“Several friends have had (other surgical) procedures to treat prostate cancer, so I had something to compare it to. Usually you’re out of service for at least a couple of weeks, but not me,” Taylor said.
Although he’s serving as a guinea pig of sorts, Taylor has taken a “someone has to be first” attitude about it.
“I was a test pilot for a living, so I’m used to doing things that others may not want to,” he said.
“After weighing all of the side effects and other treatment options, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”