From Pathologist to Patient—and Back

“I love life. I continue to run, ride my bicycle to work and dance. Last fall, I bought a new house, fell in love with a wonderful woman and re-dedicated myself to the Unitarian Universalist Church. This has been the best year of my life.”

A year earlier, Dr. Charles Lutz’s outlook on life—and his future—might have been much different. A pathologist at UK HealthCare’s Markey Cancer Center, he was no stranger to cancer. But when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, the doctor became the patient. And when his cancer didn’t respond well to surgery and radiation, he knew he was reaching the limits of what standard therapies could offer.

Dr. Charles Lutz seated on a bench having a conversation with Dr. Peng Wang.
“This has been the best year of my life, and I am very grateful for the opportunity Dr. Wang offered me to be on the clinical trial.”

Then his oncologist at Markey Cancer Center, Dr. Peng Wang, offered some good news: Dr. Lutz was eligible to enroll in a national clinical trial that was testing a new drug therapy for prostate cancer. There was just one drawback: The therapy would essentially eliminate all testosterone in his body to avoid “feeding” the hormone-dependent cancer.

“I wasn’t afraid of being in a clinical trial itself, but I was initially worried that the lack of testosterone would make me lose my motivation,” Dr. Lutz said. Despite his concerns, he ultimately chose to enroll in the trial.

Portrait of UK HealthCare oncologist, Dr. Peng Wang.
“As a patient, Dr. Lutz is very optimistic and full of energy. As a coworker, he’s a great partner and very determined.”

The results were almost immediate: just two months later, the cancer was undetectable. A year later, Dr. Lutz believed that the therapy has made him “a better, more empathetic person,” with a renewed zeal for life. The experience inspired him to evaluate the ways he could give back and make the world a better place. 

Part of that comes in the form of philanthropy. Lutz has earmarked a bequest of $100,000 each to four organizations he’s passionate about: his church, the Environmental Defense Fund, Doctors Without Borders and the Markey Cancer Foundation, whose mission of reducing cancer mortality in Kentucky now hits very close to home. 

UK HealthCare oncologist, Dr. Peng Wang, and Dr. Charles Lutz discuss treatment options.
“Even while on treatment that typically causes fatigue, he was still working in his lab and writing grants.”

“Markey Cancer Center does great work,” said Lutz. “I believe in their mission, and I’m part of the mission myself, in both my research and my clinical work. But I’m also benefiting from the care they provide.”

Portrait of Dr. Charles Lutz.
“Markey Cancer Center does great work. I believe in their mission, and I’m part of that mission myself.”

Learn more about clinical trials like Dr. Lutz’s, and the other work being done at UK HealthCare’s Markey Cancer Center.

Joe Marksteiner lifting weights in a gym