Weather Updates

Northwestern Lake Forest offers new cancer therapy

Dr. Marc D. Posner Medical Director Center for Advanced RadiatiMedicine Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital | Submitted photo

Dr. Marc D. Posner, Medical Director of the Center for Advanced Radiation Medicine at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital | Submitted photo

storyidforme: 55767625
tmspicid: 20341883
fileheaderid: 9422554

Updated: November 3, 2013 6:08AM

Breakthroughs in cancer treatment have made this an exciting time to be an oncologist.

“It does seem that more and more advances are being made at a faster and faster pace,” Dr. Marc Posner, medical director for radiation oncology at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, said.

A cancer specialist for 18 years, Posner is always on the watch for a promising new treatment.

Quick action by Posner and his staff brought such a new therapy — Xofigo — to Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital just weeks after the Food and Drug Administration approved it. And it arrived in time to treat a prostate cancer patient who is responding well so far.

For patients whose prostate cancer has spread to their bones, few options exist to treat both bone pain and prolong life. Xofigo, a new targeted radiation treatment, does both. It reduces bone pain and fractures in prostate patients and can extend their lives.

“This is a product that I have been keeping my ear to the ground on for quite a few years now,” Posner said.

He was part of a pre-market survey of clinicians who treat prostate cancer. During that study, the then-unnamed product was described as an injectable that not only significantly helped with pain but also had a survival advantage for metastatic prostate cancer, Posner said.

“My end comment on the survey was: ‘This sounds like magic’,” Posner recalled.

Fast forward to May 15, 2013: “I’m reading my trade journals and, lo and behold, I found out this product, Xofigo, has now received FDA approval,” he said.

His interest was piqued. When the Xofigo sales representative contacted him shortly after to set up an in-service to learn about the new treatment, Posner was ready.

“I said, ‘That’s great, but I’m about to go on vacation. Let’s set it up for when I get back’,” Posner said.

No problem. Everything was set for when he returned, but fate stepped in with another plan.

“Right before I left for vacation, I get a call from a medical oncologist who says, ‘I’ve got this guy who’s got metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer’ and he’s telling me all about it and this patient is the ideal candidate for this new product,” Posner said.

Although Posner had access to Xofigo, he wasn’t licensed to use it.

“I called the rep back and tell her we’ve got to move the whole timeframe up, we’ve got to get you in fast, we’ve got to get physics involved, we’ve got to get my licensing upgraded, we’ve got to get ourselves ready to go. I’ve got a patient already,” Posner said.

Within 10 days, Posner and his crew were fully licensed and ready to inject the patient.

“We got everything moving far faster than anyone could actually believe we got it done,” Posner said.

The patient, a man is in his 70s, so far has received two injections and “seems to be working out as expected,” Posner said.

In Xofigo, a radioactive substance, radium-223, is injected into an IV line in a patient’s vein in a procedure that takes less than five minutes. Because it is similar to calcium, radium-223 binds to the bone and delivers high-energy radiation over a short distance, providing a targeted treatment that is less damage to other tissues.

The patient receives a series of six injections, given once every four to six weeks. Because radium-223 rapidly clears from the bloodstream, just 15 minutes after the injection only about 20 percent of the injected radioactivity remains in the blood. By 24 hours after, less than 1 percent of radioactivity remains in the blood.

Since starting Xofigo on the first patient, a second male in his 70s has undergone treatment with Xofigo.

Posner is grateful Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital has Xofigo as part of its cancer arsenal.

“There’s a lot going for it. I would say that this new drug is as important as anything else that’s come out in last five years,” Posner said.

Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in men in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates about 239,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year and nearly 30,000 die from the disease annually.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.