When Elvio felt a lump in his neck, he went to his primary care physician. The primary care physician referred him to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, who diagnosed him with oral cancer. The ENT specialist sent Elvio to Mount Sinai, where a multidisciplinary team took care of him, including Eric Genden, MD (his surgeon), Marshall Posner, MD (his medical oncologist) and Vishal Gupta, MD (his radiation oncologist). Although Elvio felt scared upon first hearing that he had cancer, he found that the doctors, nurses, and his whole team at Mount Sinai put him at ease. "They invited me in like family," says Elvio, "and that helped a lot."
Joining a Cancer Clinical Trial
During the course of Elvio's treatment, Dr. Posner told him about a clinical trial that he thought might be a good fit for him. The trial studied a drug, already approved for treating advanced prostate cancer, which shows promise in treating head and neck cancer with fewer side effects than the standard treatment.
Elvio credits Dr. Posner with being forthright about the potential risks and side effects of the treatment. "He laid everything out on the table," says Elvio. Elvio decided that participating in the clinical trial would be worthwhile and would also be an opportunity to help advance medicine. He says, "I want to help the next person in line." He advises other patients to research what to expect, and to seek support from their spouses, family members, friends and social workers.
Elvio found that while participating in the clinical trial, he did experience a decrease in some of the side effects he'd been expecting to face during cancer treatment. He was able to keep his appetite up during most of his treatment and didn't experience as much weight loss as he'd feared, only losing about 15 pounds instead of 40 or 50. "Elvio responded very well to his treatment," says Dr. Posner. "We now have an 85 percent success rate at Mount Sinai for the treatment of HPV-related throat cancers."
In addition to Elvio's participation in a clinical trial, his wife also signed up to take part in a research study. This study looks at the partners of patients with oropharyngeal, laryngeal, or hypopharyngeal squamous cell cancer and studies the transmission, biology and immunity of the subjects to HPV.
Looking Towards the Future
Elvio, who sings in a rock band, looks forward to joining his bandmates again soon as their lead singer. In the meantime, he is playing guitar and takes his recovery in stride. "I love singing in a band, but you do what you have to do," he says.