Eagle County man seeks flight for life
EAGLE, Colorado – Robert Bump needs $60,000 for cancer treatments or he’ll die.
Bump needs to get to Israel, where there’s a vaccine that has been treating cancer in people just like him. It could work for him, too, his doctors say.
“My odds in the U.S. are 2 percent with chemotherapy. They’re much higher with the vaccine,” Bump said.
The Vail Valley Charitable Fund and the Vail Valley Foundation are helping raise money as fast as they can, and they’re putting together a community fundraiser. He’s also raising money on his own.
The Vail Valley Charitable Fund ran a fundraiser for him last year.
“It was a good one. It kept me alive for a year,” Bump says.
A fundraising letter is beginning to make the rounds, starting with churches and people who might need a tax deduction.
Friends are coming over with a casserole and a check.
It’s $110,000 for three years of treatment. Bump is planning to travel to Israel because the treatment can be available on a compassionate use basis in some cases.
Healing a healer
Bump has been an acupuncturist locally for 20 years, helping treat cancer patients as an acupuncturist.
There are a lot of approaches to cancer treatment that people don’t know about, Bump says. Some are junk, many are not.
This one’s not, says Dr. Gary Weiss of the non-profit Next Step Institute for integrative medicine. Bump is one of their acupuncturists and has been working with Weiss for years.
“He’s a colleague and a friend,” Weiss says. “Every adjective for ‘good guy’ applies to Robert.”
Weiss trained at the Mayo Clinic and is board certified in neurology and electrodiagnostic medicine. He was voted one of “America’s Top Physicians” by the Consumers’ Research Council of America. He’s a published author of a number of research studies including one in Science magazine.
The Next Step Institute was founded by his wife, Cathleen Brooks Weiss, therapist and breast cancer survivor.
How it works
Northwest Biotherapeutics makes the vaccine Bump will be given.
Right now, cancer is treated with agents from outside the body to target what’s going on inside – often radiation and chemotherapy that attack everything, said Carol Powers, Northwest Biotherapeutics patient liason.
Chemotherapy kills some kinds of cancer cells, but the surviving cells mutate and become resistant, Weiss explained.
This vaccine extracts the patient’s immune cells and cancer cells, arms those immune cells and sends them to war inside the patient’s body to kill cancer cells.
Those armed immune cells travel throughout the body, killing every cancer cell they can find, Powers said.
The vaccine kills cancer cells without the crippling side effects of some other cancer treatments. Patients don’t lose their hair, get sick, or lose their memory, Weiss said.
So it lengthens life by curing cancer, but it’s also a healthier and higher quality life, Weiss said.
Northwest Biotherapeutics is a U.S. company doing late-stage clinical trial work in the United States with parallel efforts in Europe.
One of their big pushes is curing brain tumors. Their prostate cancer vaccine should hit the U.S. market soon, Weiss said.
But Bump can’t get a vaccine in the U.S. for his cancer – colon cancer that metastasized in his liver. Some year, but not this year.
“It will be the standard of care in this country in a few years. Unfortunately, I don’t have a few years,” Bump said. “I don’t have time to wait. I’m terminally ill.”
Insurance won’t cover it
Bump is free to get the vaccine, but the vaccine isn’t free, and neither is travel to Tel Aviv. He has good insurance, Weiss said, but because the vaccine is not FDA approved, they won’t pay a penny of it, says a frustrated Weiss.
“They’d pay for $100,000 of chemo, but that won’t cure him. Or someone could perform surgery to cut out much of the cancer, but that won’t cure him either,” Weiss said.
The initial studies were done a decade ago at UCLA by Dr. Linda Liau, determining that the vaccine is safe. The second and third phases will determine whether the vaccine does what it’s supposed to do, Powers said.
“It takes a long time because the FDA needs statistical significance, and you need a huge number to reach that statistical significance,” Powers explained.
Bump says he understands that the FDA wants to make sure the vaccine is safe, but meanwhile cancer patients are dying without it.
“They don’t want to take German research? It just boggles my mind,” Bump said. “The Germans are less meticulous than Americans?”
And yes, it’s expensive, but fighting cancer always is. Chemotherapy costing $500,000 is not unusual, Weiss said.
“If we can get him there quickly enough and get him the treatment …” Weiss said, his voice trailing off. “We’ll make it. Robert will make it.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.