Richard Berman (Medford, Oregon)

DSRCT Diagnosed at age 34 - Passed Away 9/29/00


Richard posted this to on 7/4/99

I am a true survivor of desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), an extremely rare disease for which there is a known effective protocol, which I was lucky enough to undergo. I am healthy, cancer free, and working full time five months after my protocol ended. My protocol was developed by the pediatric oncology department at Sloan Kettering, and appears in the medical literature. It is also being used by at Children's Hospital in Seattle. The physicians at Children's Hospital in Seattle consulted with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where I was treated.

I was diagnosed at 34 with widely metastatic DSRCT. I had a nine-inch diameter primary tumor in the pelvic cul de sac, and numerous thoracic metastatic tumors. This was first diagnosed as carcinoma of unknown origin by the pathologists at Oregon Health Science University. My oncologist thought it might be extragonadal testicular cancer. I went for a second opinion to the pelvic tumor specialists at MD Anderson in Houston. They diagnosed DSCRT, but were unaware of any effective treatment.

My local oncologist researched the literature on DSCRT and found an article from Sloan Kettering, reporting good results using their protocol. Not wanting to travel to New York for treatment, I consulted with Fred Hutch to see if they could do the protocol, which required stem cell rescue. They made an appointment with a doctor who altered the protocol for me slightly, given that I was 34, and they had only used the protocol on children.

I had been given two rounds of a chemotherapy regimine known as "BEP", bleomycin, etoposide, cisplatinum, in Medford, and they had shrunk the tumors markedly. At Fred Hutch, I received four rounds of  "VACIME,"  vincristine, Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Ifosfamide, mesna and etoposide, at very high doses. I had to be hospitalized much of the time and experienced extreme mucusitis for each round, which prevented me from eating at all, and required hospitalization for pain relief. I had a Hickman catheter inserted before the treatment began and required TPN for much of the time. My stem cells were harvested after the second round and I received stem cell boosters after rounds 3 and 4.

The treatment eradicated all metastatic tumors and shrunk the primary tumor to an inch and a half.

I then had surgery at University of Washington. They removed the entire tumor and found clean margins on all sides except my bladder, which showed microscopic infiltration. Based on my prior instructions, they did not resect the bladder.

After recovering from surgery, I underwent Fred Hutch's "standard" autologous stem cell transplant, with Busulphan, thiotepa, and melphalan. I was hospitalized for one month and underwent minor complications which were all resolved.

Two months after my transplant I began a six-week course of localized radiation at the original site of the primary tumor. This was extremely easy compared to the other treatments.

My experience in meeting many cancer patients has been that the ones who go with the most aggressive treatment the soonest tend to do the best, while the ones who only resort to aggressive therapy after less aggressive therapy has failed have tended to do the worst.

I recommend highly the doctors at Seattle Children's and at Fred Hutch, and especially the support staff at Fred Hutch who are outstandingly capable and extremely supportive. I, my wife and my two little girls look forward to a long life together.


From the Mail Tribune of Jackson County Oregon 10/6/00

Medford honors sidewalk crusader

By Jessica Smith

A Medford lawyer who rallied his neighbors to support construction of a controversial eastside sidewalk was honored by the City Council Thursday, nearly a week after his death.

Richard Berman, 36, died of cancer Sept. 29 at his home.

Berman also will be honored later this fall by a business group for his contributions to the Rogue Valley high-tech industry.

At the councilís noon session Thursday, Mayor Lindsay Berryman officially dedicated the developing sidewalk along Hillcrest Road to Berman. The council approved the idea at a previous meeting after receiving a request from one of Bermanís neighbors.

"Itís not something we do on a regular basis," Councilman Curt Bennett said. "But we thought weíd try to promote neighborhoods."

Bermanís efforts to encourage his neighbors to speak out on the Hillcrest issue warranted the council honor, Bennett said.

Berman organized a group of neighbors to attend an August 1999 public hearing where a city plan to build the Hillcrest sidewalk was hotly contested by some neighbors.

At the meeting, Bermanís daughter and her friend spoke about the need for the sidewalk. They told the council that their parents wouldnít let them visit one another because doing so meant they would have to walk in traffic, Bennett remembered.

"You could hear a pin drop in the room," Bennett added. "And it was over like that. The whole point of sidewalks is safety."

The council voted unanimously to install the 1,550-foot sidewalk on Hillcrest from Valley View Drive to Black Oak Drive.

Two weeks ago, the council approved placing a concrete square with Bermanís hand prints into the sidewalk. The concrete block awaits installation at the corner of Lyman and Hillcrest roads, according to city engineers.

Colleagues say Berman also will be remembered as one who helped the Rogue Valley make significant strides in the local high-tech industry.

"High-tech in the valley wouldnít be where it is today if he hadnít been involved," said Charles McHenry, a former technology consultant. "He was instrumental in building this community."

A former IBM programmer, Berman specialized in technology and intellectual property law. The Southern Oregon Telecommunications & Technology Council will hold its fall banquet in Bermanís memory, McHenry said
     desmoplastic small round cell tumor