Blessings in disguise: A father on the move finds hope at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center
By Jake Poinier
It was Mother's Day 2012 when retired U.S. Postal Service worker Michael Kilfoyle and his wife Donna purchased a home in Arizona. As they planned their post-work life, they made several trips over the summer between their Colorado home and their new abode. During one of them, Michael had difficulty urinating, which he attributed to dehydration in the August desert climate.
As a precaution, he paid a visit to his family doctor — only to discover he had elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. A subsequent biopsy found not only adenocarcinoma (the most common form of prostate cancer), but also a far less common type called small cell prostate cancer, which isn't detectable by a PSA test. Radiation treatments and chemotherapy started immediately.
Doing the right things
"I'd never smoked and seldom drank, so I thought I was doing all the right things," Kilfoyle says. "But to have it come about as it did, finding the small cell cancer that spreads quickly, was a blessing in disguise."
A second blessing came in the form of their move to Arizona in December — within driving distance of the team at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert.
"When I saw Michael, he was in the 10 to 15 percent of patients whose cancer had already spread to other organs," says medical oncologist Farshid Dayyani, M.D., Ph.D. "In those cases, you don't do surgery or radiation, you start with hormonal treatments to reduce testosterone, which acts as fuel for cancer. Unfortunately, the aggressive ones become resistant, producing their own testosterone or using other hormones, and you have to treat the patient with chemotherapy. Fortunately, after four courses of chemo, he had a good response, and all the visible cancers shrank."
Happy Father’s Day
As Father's Day 2013 approaches, Kilfoyle’s most recent CT and bone scans indicate progress against the disease. "Donna and I have only been married three years, and it has brought us closer," he says. "And we have family all over, including grandkids here in Arizona as well as in Colorado, and they're always checking in on how I'm doing."
Backed by research and cutting-edge treatments, Banner MD Anderson physicians continue to make progress on finding and targeting the pathways in cancer cells that allow them to grow.
"Our understanding of the biology of the disease has enabled us to develop novel targeted therapies," Dayyani says. "In addition, our multidisciplinary team, with radiation oncologists, urologists, and medical oncologists working together with the patient, helps us find the best approach."