Elizabeth Hansen. I agree, our practice is similar. A lot of our patients are not very interested in chemotherapy. You have to take into consideration their ECOG (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group) status, their goals, and quality of life when talking to them about these medications. And a lot of them tend to choose more of a palliative route. Depending on their AEs and how things are going, we will dose reduce, hold treatment, or give treatment holidays.
Mark Klein. If patients are progressing on docetaxel, what are options that people would use? Radium-223 certainly is available for patients with nonvisceral metastases, as well as cabazitaxel, mitoxantrone, estramustine and other older drugs.
Julie Graff. We have some clinical trials for patients postdocetaxel. We have the TRITON2 and TRITON3 studies open at the VA. (NCT02952534 and NCT02975934, respectively) A lot of patients would get a biopsy, and we’d look for a BRCA 1 or 2 and ATM mutation. For those patients who don’t have those mutations—and maybe 80% of them don’t—we talk about radium-223 for the patients without visceral metastases and bone pain. I have had a fair number of patients go on cabazitaxel, but I have not used mitoxantrone since cabazitaxel came out. It’s not off the table, but it hasn’t shown improvement in survival.
Elizabeth Hansen. One of our challenges, because we’re an ambulatory care center, is that we are unable to give radium-223 in house, and these services have to be sent out to a non-VA facility. It is doable, but it takes more legwork and organization on our part.
Julie Graff. We have not had radium-223, although we’re working to get that online. And we are physically connected to Oregon Health Science University (OHSU), so we send our patients there for radium. It is a pain because the doctors at OHSU don’t have CPRS access. I’m often in the middle of making sure the complete blood counts (CBCs) are sent to OHSU and to get my patients their treatments.
Mark Klein. The Minneapolis VAMC has radium-223 on site, and we have used it for patients whose cancer has progressed while on docetaxel without visceral metastases. Katie, have you had an opportunity to coordinate that care for patients?
Kathleen Nelson. Radium is administered at our facility by one of our nuclear medicine physicians. A complete blood count is checked at least 3 days prior to the infusion date but no sooner than 6 days. Due to the cost of the material, ordering without knowing the patient’s counts are within a safe range to administer is prohibitive. This adds an additional burden of 2 visits (lab with return visit) to the patient. We have treated 12 patients. Four patients stopped treatment prior to completing the 6 planned treatments citing debilitating fatigue and/or nonresolution of symptoms as their reason to stop treatment. One patient died. The 7 remaining patients subjectively reported varying degrees of pain relief.
Elizabeth Hansen. Another thing to mention is the lack of a PSA response from radium-223 as well. Patients are generally very diligent about monitoring their PSA, so this can be a bit distressing.
Mark Klein. Julie, have you noticed a PSA flare with radium-223? I know it has been reported.
Julie Graff. I haven’t. But I put little stock in PSAs in these patients. I spend 20 minutes explaining to patients that the PSA is not helpful in determining whether or not the radium is working. I tell them that the bone marker alkaline phosphatase may decrease. And I think it’s important to note, too, that radium-223 is not a treatment we have on the shelf. We order it from Denver I believe. It is weight based, and it takes 5 days to get.