Sep 09

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One Man’s Journey Leads to An Unforeseen Purpose Helping Many


Dominic Marrese and his wife, Cecelia, enjoy the beaches near their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

They say it’s really the journey that teaches us a lot about our destination. Dominic Marrese could have never anticipated 10 years ago when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer that today he would be an outspoken advocate for prostate cancer screening and a committed champion for increased funding to move science forward.

Diagnosed at 49 years old with what has turned out to be an aggressive form of prostate cancer, Marrese’s journey has been long and arduous. He received the difficult news in 2005 after a routine physical. He and his wife, Cecelia, and their two daughters were living in Brookfield, Connecticut.

“I wasn’t’ totally surprised; there is a family history,” said Marrese. “My older brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer in his early 60s, and we suspect our father also battled the disease.”

After securing a second opinion, Marrese underwent a radical prostatectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the prostate gland and surrounding tissue. However, three months later his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) began to rise. According to the American Cancer Society, about 30 percent of patients will develop such a biochemical recurrence following a prostatectomy.


Dominic Marrese and Daniel George, MD

Marrese spent the next nine years pursuing a cure. In 2006 he underwent intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which for a year lowered his PSA. However, by 2007 it was on the rise again. In 2008 Marrese enrolled in a clinical trial for men with fast PSA doubling times. The trial was successful, lowering his PSA for the next three years.

The reprieve was short lived, however. As Marrese’s testosterone returned, so, too, did his PSA levels. By 2013, after trying every medical procedure possible, he was pronounced hormone insensitive. His cancer forced him into early retirement. Because he was experiencing excruciating peripheral neuropathy in his feet, a possible nerve damaging side effect of long-term chemotherapy, he was forced to drop out of a promising clinical trial.

“My cancer has become all consuming,” said Marrese, who with his wife moved to North Carolina in 2013, in part so he could receive treatment at Duke Cancer Center. “I’m always wondering what’s around the corner for me. What can I leverage now to keep my cancer at bay until something new comes out?”

A member of the “Reluctant Brotherhood,” an international prostate cancer support group that meets weekly via phone, and also his local “Us TOO” prostate cancer support group, Marrese and his “brothers” urge young men to be screened, despite ongoing debate surrounding the practice.

“This disease affects both young and older men alike,” he said. “We need to be our own advocates. Even

though we may be surrounded by the best experts in the world, we must do our homework. Ask questions. Know your risk factors – research family history. Work in conjunction with your doctor.”

Marrese is also partnering with Sam Poley, whose father battled advanced prostate cancer. Earlier this year Poley launched Give 1 For Dad, a crowdfunding campaign to raise $1 million to support a clinical trial spearheaded by Daniel George, MD, director of genitourinary cancer at Duke Cancer Institute.

“Funding from National Institute for Health (NIH) is at a historic low,” said George. “Current funding is woefully inadequate for the number of promising new concepts and ideas that emerge each year. As such we rely more than ever on private support – industry partnerships, investment groups and philanthropy.”DSC_3484

George’s proposed study would concentrate on the use of a generic drug to capitalize on cancer cells’ hunger for copper. Previous studies have attempted to block copper to deprive cells and thus, hopefully, kill the cancer. However, this study would encourage cancer cells to binge and gorge on copper they crave – in fact, feeding the demand. Once the cells are satiated with copper, investigators would then treat patients with a generic drug that binds copper in order to kill cancer cells. This mechanism is unique and could treat prostate tumors resistant to traditional hormonal and chemotherapy.

To date, Give 1 For Dad has raise more than $38,000. The campaign asks individuals to give one time, one percent of one day’s salary. If the calculated amount doesn’t seem like enough, donors are invited to give more – as much as “your dad would give for you.”

Marrese’s journey continues; his cancer has now spread to his bones. His destiny is clear. He is duty-bound to cry out for action.

“This disease has exacted a terrible toll on me and those I love,” said Marrese, his voice trailing off to just a whisper. “We just aren’t doing enough.”

For more information on prostate cancer care at Duke and available clinical trials, visit dukemedicine.org. For more information on Give One For Dad or to donate, visit give1fordad.com. Download Get In The Game flyer: MKT-630 Men’s Health Flyer_draft01


Permanent link to this article: https://sites.duke.edu/dukecancerinstitute/one-mans-journey-leads-to-an-unforeseen-purpose-helping-many/


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  1. Eric Riddle

    Dominic Marrese is a friend of mine from Brookfield, CT. The manner in which he approaches dealing with this insidious disease is inspiring. He has so much to fight for given his beautiful family and I’d like to thank him for his fierce but graceful effort in fighting for a cure. Thanks Dom!

  2. Rev. Carl Byrd

    Dominic is a fellow board member of the Wilmington Prostate Cancer Support Group, Wilmington,NC.
    Brother I am there with you in Prayer and Wallet.

  3. Kathleen Marrese

    Love you Dad!!!

  4. Len Sierra

    Dominic is the kind of guy who should live to be 100 because he is such a giving, compassionate soul and he sacrifices much of his own precious time to help others. Please give whatever you can, readers, to help Dominic and others like him. Thank you for your generosity. May it be returned to you 10 fold.

  5. Craig Pynn

    Since I have not yet met you face-to-face, Dominic, it is good to meet you here. You are a man of courage, but even more importantly, you are a man of action dedicated to sparing others from having to go down the same path you are so bravely walking. Peace, brother.

  6. rd

    Heh Bro ….. you da man!! Luv ya ……

  7. Jim Coffey

    Dominic is a former member of our men’s group in Danbury, Conn. Although he retired to North carolina, it is like he never left us. He is passionate about keeping us informed as he sends three or four e-mails a week. When you read his story above, it is beyond remarkable that he has such a commitment to others across the country. Our Thesaurus has no entry to describe this every day hero for many. As the facilitator for the past several years of our men’s group I receive the names and background information of all new referrals. Unfortunately i receive too many each month. On many occasions I will connect Dominic and this new referral. Never has he found excuses to not call the referral. For example, last week I called his cell phone to tell him about a very anxious referral with aggressive P.C. Where was he? Eating breakfast in Los Angeles at the annual PCRI conference. “As soon as I finish my breakfast, I’ll call him.” Dominic is a national treasure for Prostate Cancer research.zIf only, there were more Dominics.

  8. Rev'd Carl Byrd

    Dominic is an Inspiration to his fellow directors and members of the WILMINGTON PROSTATE CANCER SUPPORT GROUP!!!
    God has him here for a Reason!
    Prayerful in this jounery,
    Rev’d Carl A. Byrd, Sr., Dr. Div.
    Lower Cape Fear Hospice Volunteer / Wilmington Prostate Cancer Support Group Board Member / Grace Ministries of NC, Inc.(Non -Profit)501(c)(3)

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