Rare treatment knocks out Poison rocker's cancer

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-18 20:04:23-04

The drummer and co-founder of the glam metal band Poison was declared cancer-free after undergoing an experimental treatment at the Moores Cancer Center, UC San Diego Health officials announced Monday.

Rikki Rockett was diagnosed with oral cancer more than a year ago and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment, but the tumor came back.

Rockett, born Richard Allan Ream, went to Moores Cancer Center several months ago, where he underwent experimental cancer immunotherapy credited with eradicating the tumor, according to UCSD

Rockett said he joined the clinical trial not only out of concern about himself, but also about being around for his 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, and his 7-year-old son, Jude.

Immunotherapy is a relatively new form of treatment that boosts the body's immune system, better enabling it to attack cancer cells. Under the care of Dr. Ezra Cohen, a professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and associate director for Translational Science at Moores Cancer Center, Rockett participated in a clinical trial that is testing a combination of two immunotherapy drugs that remove defenses cancers use against the immune system.

That type of treatment is only available at a few specific medical centers around the country, according to Cohen.

"We are delighted that Rikki responded so well to immunotherapy. He had already been through a lot with chemotherapy and radiation treatment before he came to us, but his cancer recurred," Cohen said.

"That's the advantage of immunotherapy over traditional therapy -- there are fewer side effects, we can specifically eradicate cancer cells almost anywhere in the body, and it's effective against tumors that are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation," he said.

Rockett broke the news via his Instagram account, where he posted a photo of himself with Cohen. The drummer wrote in the accompanying caption: "Because of this man, I am cancer free!!!"

"My hope going forward is that by talking to other cancer patients, I might be able to lessen their pain and suffering," Rockett said. "I know from experience that chemotherapy and radiation are not fun. If I can help anyone else, it would help give reason to what I went through."