Precision Oncology delivers miracle for Mickey Nunn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – According to the American Cancer Society, one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during his lifetime. The standard of care is usually surgery, radiation or/and chemotherapy, but one researcher believes there should be a new treatment strategy that can improve a patient’s quality of life.

It may not seem like much, but to Mickey Nunn, being able to play bass guitar for his wife Teresa, is a big miracle. More than 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer. The cancer was inoperable, and Nunn had already undergone 42 treatments of radiation. He then underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy.

Nunn said, “Chemo for me was like throwing it on the wall and seeing if it stuck.”

Even with all the treatments, his PSA score, or prostate-specific antigen, sky-rocketed. A score above four is a risk factor for prostate cancer. Nunn’s was 99.  

“Only thing that was left was to pray to God for a miracle, and he gave me one,” Nunn shared.

That miracle arrived in the form of Eddy Yang, MD, Ph.D., associate director of precision oncology and professor of radiation oncology at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Yang believes he can treat Mickey’s tumor using precision medicine.

“So, precision oncology for us means to gather as much data about a patient as well as their cancer and trying to figure out what’s the best treatment for them,” said Yang.

Researchers use a biopsy or blood sample from the patient. 

“If we find that a patient’s tumor has that particular mutation for which there is a drug against that mutation, then we put them on a study using that drug,” Yang explained.

In Nunn’s case, it's an ovarian cancer drug that seems to work against his prostate cancer mutation. With this new drug, Nunn has been in remission for over a year.

Nunn said, “It’s not just trial and error. This here is made especially for me.”

Nunn’s PSA score has fallen from 99 to 3.16 after starting the cancer drug Lynparza, normally prescribed for ovarian cancer. He also took pain medication for his back pain but no longer needs to.