New test extending lives of advanced prostate cancer patients

Posted at 3:00 PM, Nov 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-12 18:00:39-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- As an active 45-year-old man who loves to surf and take adventures with his daughter, Bryce Olson was the last person his friends expected to get cancer.

In 2014, a call while at work confirmed it: stage IV metastatic prostate cancer.

Metastatic means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, lymph nodes, bones or other organs.

“It was just shocking and sad and I didn’t know anything about this stuff, so I just...I rolled into whatever my doctors were recommending," said Olson.

He says the standard of care - surgery, chemotherapy, and the initial hormone therapy - wasn't working.

“I started coming to terms with my own mortality. I didn’t even think I’d see my kid get out of elementary school and I was losing hope," said Olson.

Olson says he wanted to make his final days count. The Intel employee started learning about precision medicine and eventually pursued DNA sequencing to find out exactly what was driving his disease.

“I'm a believer in profiling your tumor at a molecular level and trying to understand what’s driving your unique disease, and then taking that data and then finding the right drug for the right person at the right time," said Olson.

His results led him to a clinical trial in Los Angeles, where he was a perfect molecular match for the drug being tested.

Four years later, Olson's precision medicine journey led him to San Diego's Epic Sciences.

“We're actually going to a place where no test has gone before," said Murali Prahalad, President and CEO of Epic Sciences. "These are metastatic patients; the disease has already spread. And we’re trying to understand in the later stages of the disease when it’s far more complicated, how do you then understand which treatment is the right one.”

Patients like Olson have two treatment options, chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

"It's very important to know which medicine is going to work," said Pascal Bamford, Chief Scientific Officer of Epic Sciences, "At the metastatic end of this disease every week, every day, every month is critically important."

The company has created a blood test to make the choice easier, called the Oncotype DX AR-V7 Nucleus Detect.

If the antigen AR-V7 is detected in a patient, they have built a resistance to hormone therapy, meaning chemotherapy would likely be a better treatment option.

“We think it’s very groundbreaking, to say this is the first test that can tell a patient which drug to go on to extend their life," said Ryan Dittamore, Chief of Medical Innovation.

Dittamore says the test helps provides certainty for doctors. Patients they've studied have almost doubled their life expectancy with the AR-V7 test.

“It can mean the world, not only to patients but loved ones," said Dittamore.

Olson was AR-V7 negative, meaning he could continue hormone therapy.

Four months in, it's working. 

“I’m going to see my kid not only get out of high school but college and get married. I’m fully confident that I can do that because I’m just going to keep pushing," said Olson.

In December 2018 the AR-V7 test will be covered by Medicare, meaning thousands of more men will have access to it.