Patient Story

Scott's story: With only three years to live, doctors found him the trial of a lifetime

In 2009, while visiting his urologist for a routine checkup, Scott Sparks was told that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) count was extremely high. The high levels prompted extra biopsies, and Scott was soon diagnosed with prostate cancer in late November 2009. By December, Scott had surgery to remove his prostate. He recovered fully.

In 2012, Scott’s urologist noticed that his PSA count began to rise, signaling the cancer had come back. His team of doctors treated him with 39 rounds of radiation. Unfortunately, the treatment woke up cancer cells in his bladder, a potential side effect to this treatment. In March of 2017 Scott’s doctors recommended he have his bladder removed. He visited Northside Hospital Atlanta for the procedure, performed by Dr. Vahan S. Kassabian then of Georgia Urology, and stayed in the hospital and outpatient care for almost 100 days following the surgery.

Late 2017, during another regular visit to the urologist, Scott’s PSA count spiked again. In search for an oncologist in Atlanta, he found Dr. L. Crain Garrot with Georgia Cancer Specialists, affiliated with Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, and made an appointment for February 2018. After looking at his charts, Dr. Garrot shared harrowing news – due to the speed of cancer throughout his body and severity, Scott likely only had three to five years to live.

In hopes of slowing the cancer’s aggression, Dr. Garrot prescribed multiple cancer drugs to Scott in cycles, each yielding positive results at first and then waning.

Scott also opted for genetic testing. His results showed he had an abnormal ATM marker gene, meaning he was at a high risk of developing prostate and other types of cancer. These results allowed him to take part in a PARP inhibitor and immunotherapy trial in April of 2019. The trial was aimed at focusing on mutations, such as Scotts, but across multiple types of cancer. These mutations are more commonly seen in breast cancers, however, as in Scott’s case, he carried the ATM mutation, and was a good candidate to participate in the study offered by Northside Hospital.

After completing the first cycle of treatment, Scott received an MRI and bone scan confirming the treatment was working. During the second cycle, doctors reduced the prescription dosage to help manage Scott’s side effects. After a checkup in October 2019, Scott’s PSA count was down to 14, and his lymph node size had decreased by 49 percent. Today, Scott is on the verge of remission, which will be obtained once his lymph nodes decrease in size by 50 percent. He continues to have follow-up appointments with Dr. Garrot every two weeks.

The doctors and staff at Northside Hospital have been unbelievably good to me,” he said. “They saved my life.”

Scott focuses on giving back to his community and spending time with family, including his six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

My community and family have been the best support system for me,” he said. “They reminded me that once you accept what is happening, you can focus on learning and growing from your suffering.”

*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.

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