Research Patient Drives from Iowa to Thank Staff at Georgia Cancer Specialists

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Following Successful Treatment for Prostate Cancer, Mark Schwickerath Says GCS Feels Like Family

Georgia Cancer SpecialistsWhen Mark Schwickerath’s prostate cancer returned in 2009, the Iowa resident went to the Internet in search of help. After locating a clinical trial for the drug Abiraterone, he emailed Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) — a Top 10 private cancer practice in the U.S. — to see if he might be a candidate.

Within days, he was on the road from his home in New Hampton, Iowa, to Atlanta, making the day-long drive every month for a year before a trial for the drug opened in his area.

And this week he made the long drive yet again with his wife Theresa, battling snow that sometimes drifted to 20 feet alongside the highway, just to say “thank you” to the physicians and staff at GCS.

“Here is a patient who drove a whole day every month for a year to make it to us before a clinical trial site near his home opened,” said Dr. Mansoor Saleh, principal investigator and director of clinical research at GCS. “This is an amazing example of the commitment to clinical research, both by our patients and our staff.”

Schwickerath, 65, said everyone at GCS “treated me like family, so I felt it was important to come back and say thank you to let them know how much they helped me.”

The Vietnam veteran had prostate surgery and hormone therapy after his aggressive form of prostate cancer was diagnosed in 1999. The cancer returned in 2009, and his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) numbers were in the 60s when he started on the clinical trial at GCS in June.

“After the first cycle of treatment, the numbers had dropped by 90 percent,” he said. His last PSA numbers were down to 0.14, and are still improving. PSA levels are used to detect the presence of prostate cancer.

“I was seriously desperate when I found the trial. Now, I’m excellent, just super,” he said. “The people at GCS treat you like a family member. I wanted to come back and let them know the good they are doing.”

Schwickerath said he has made 19 or 20 trips to Atlanta — returning every 14 days for the first three months, then every 28 days for the rest of the year.

He planned his most recent trip in order to say thank you before visiting his nephew in Kennesaw and heading further south to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to soak up some sun.

“It’s still winter in Iowa, and I’m ready for some sunshine,” he said.

Georgia Cancer Specialists is a Top 10 private cancer practice in the U.S. and a leader in advanced cancer treatment and research. The practice supports more than 200,000 patient visits each year. GCS offers community-based medical oncology and hematology services and is the first private oncology practice to also provide a full range of support services for patients in Georgia, including nutritional counseling, pain management, wellness counseling, and home health coordination. The GCS research department, whose focus is bringing targeted cancer therapy to communities, is the first in Georgia to offer Phase I clinical trials, the most novel cancer therapies available. GCS has 29 offices, 44 physicians, and more than 600 support staff members located in Metro Atlanta, North and Central Georgia, Southeast Tennessee, and Southwest North Carolina. Georgia Cancer Specialists can be found on the web at www.gacancer.com. GCS is The Cancer Answer.

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