Premier Medical Group Battles Winter Storm Hercules to Aid Patient with Advanced Prostate Cancer

In a race against time and weather, Premier Medical Group provided a patient with advanced prostate cancer a life-extending cellular procedure – just in the knick of time.

The manufacturer Dendreon facilitates this procedure, serving as the first and only FDA-approved immunotherapy for advanced prostate cancer called Provenge. Provenge immunotherapy offers a personalized treatment that is clinically proven to help extend life in certain men with advanced prostate cancer by reprogramming your own immune cells to attack cancerous cells within your body.

On New Year’s Eve, a patient under the care of a Premier Medical Group underwent a two-hour cell collection to prepare for this innovative procedure. These collected cells were then sent to Provenge’s Seattle laboratory, where they were immediately incubated and fused with Provenge, activating and multiplying resting immune cells.

There is a delicate 72-hour window between the fusion process with Provenge and delivering these modified cells back into patient’s body. If the modified cells are not used within this time period, the drug is rendered ineffective. This patient’s medication was due to expire on 1:01 P.M., Friday.

Moreover, with the onset of winter storm Hercules, beginning Thursday, and dropping between 3 and 7 inches of snow overnight in Dutchess County communities, transportation of the drug to Poughkeepsie was nearly put to a halt, and the patient’s spirits potentially crushed.

“Normally, the manufacturer faxes the final disposition of the medication the morning of delivery, but we knew with the impending storm, we might have to make other arrangements. I was in constant contact with all involved about every hour until nearly midnight on Thursday,” says Clinical Research Manager, Provenge Coordinator and registered nurse, Kim Secord of Premier Medical Group.

The medication was sent from Provenge’s Seattle-based manufacturer where it was due to arrive at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, and be delivered to Premier Medical Group’s Poughkeepsie office via a courier service. Prior to arrival in New Jersey, the Teterboro Airport closed due to inclement weather, and the medication was re-routed to Charlotte, North Carolina, on a flight that landed at 4:00 A.M. Friday morning.

With plans to then drive the package to Baltimore, constituents calculated that it would arrive too late. As a final effort, a private helicopter was obtained to transport the drug directly to the helipad of Vassar Brother’s Medical Center where Secord waited for its arrival.

The single immunotherapy was driven to Premier Medical Group where the patient – literally counting the minutes – was prepped and ready for infusion, arriving with just ten minutes to spare at 12:51 P.M. “I am very proud with how our research team was able to work so synergistically with Dendreon and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in order to deliver the treatment and care that this patient so needed. The team effort was most impressive. We were able to get this done together and preserve our mission of continually delivering excellent and compassionate healthcare to our community,” says co-CEO of Premier Medical Group, Dr. Evan Goldfischer.

The patient also had a few emotional words to share, thankful for the unwavering dedication of the medical team behind him. “I am totally impressed by the Herculean efforts of so many people to get my treatments to me on time during the massive storm of the same name. I wish to thank all concerned especially, Kim Secord, my treatment specialist who kept me informed hour by hour of the progress of the journey and to the drug manufacturer Dendreon who spared no expense in getting the treatment to me on time via plane, car and helicopter.  Watching that special helicopter land at Vassar made it appear the treatment was heaven sent.  Thanks again to all.”

A close family member shared a few words on the subject, inspired by the day’s efforts. “As an aside, I am reminded of the story of Balto, the lead dog of the dog sled team that brought the 1925 diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska from Seattle, Washington. When the engine of the only plane that could carry the serum was frozen the decision was made to use multiple dog sled teams to carry the serum over 2,800 miles in a blizzard with temperatures of -23F. Balto ran through the blizzard in the dark in near white out conditions and saved the city.”

“Had this medication come just ten minutes later, it would have expired. We’d be forced to send it back to the manufacturer to be destroyed,” adds Secord. “This experience shows how the world – not just pharmaceuticals – is invested in healthcare. The constant communication between all parties, as well as the patient is a sentiment of team effort between all healthcare entities. This was absolutely all about our patient receiving this treatment and ensuring his investment was preserved.”

Check out the article from the Poughkeepsie Journal.