SALEM -- A Salem dentist given just months to live is free of cancerous tumors after treatment at Providence Cancer Center.
Dr. Chuck Howard was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma two years ago.
“I knew enough to realize it was bad. I figured I had six months to two years at the most,” he remembers.
“You realize that in a very short time you may not be together anymore,” said his wife Jo.
They have been married 39 years.
She works with him at their dental practice. They also raised a son and daughter and enjoy the outdoors.
“We just never thought we wouldn’t get to enjoy our retirement years together,” said Jo.
After Chuck’s diagnosis, he joined a trial with 11 other patients at Providence Cancer Center.
“He was very sick when we began. His cancer was progressing rapidly,” explained Dr. Brendan Curti.
Chuck went through six months of treatment spending six weeks of that time in the hospital.
He was given a high dose of radiation followed by immunotherapy. Researchers describe it as a one-two punch.
“Both therapies had been used before but this research was designed to test the combination and the timing,” Curti explained.
The trial had a 60 to 70 percent response rate.
The tumors once numerous in Chuck’s body are gone and he has been told there is very little chance the melanoma will return.
“When we started this process I was told it could be a strike out or a home run,” Chuck recalled.
“We are so thankful this was available,” Jo added, “and we hope it will eventually help others."
A second trial for 40 patients is now under way at Providence Cancer Center.
“We’re hoping to increase our batting average with more home runs,” Curti said.