A year after after being diagnosed with cancer of the tongue, POISON drummer Rikki Rockett says that he is now cancer free thanks to an experimental immunotherapy drug.
Rockett broke the news via his Instagram account where he posted a photo of himself with Dr. Ezra Cohen, associate director and professor of medicine at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego. The drummer wrote in the accompanying caption: “Because of this man, I am cancer free!!!”
The 54-year-old musician initially received radiation and chemotherapy, like many cancer patients, but became concerned when the cancer appeared to be returning.
“I just didn’t feel right,” Rockett told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “This should be getting better, not worse. I should be eating better, I should be swallowing better — what the hell’s going on?”
Several months ago, Rockett went to UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and underwent experimental cancer immune therapy which has now eradicated the tumor.
“For any of us that’s ever gone through cancer, we know how scary it can be, and when you’re going through a new type of treatment, that’s even scarier,” Rikki says in a recent video message, which can be seen on The San Diego Union-Tribune web site.
“Immunotherapy is largely unknown to the public. We’re hearing about it now more and more over time — articles in newspapers and magazines — but there wasn’t a lot of information when I made the decision to actually do it, and I was very nervous.
“I’ve been one of the very lucky people that have responded very well to immunotherapy.
“My goal is to help people make the decision to try immunotherapy, because the side effects are so much less, and you feel so much better doing it, and you can get rid of your cancer without doing super-invasive stuff, in a lot of cases. So I’m a big proponent.”
DEF LEPPARD guitarist Vivian Campbell is another high-profile rock musician currently undergoing immunotherapy after first announcing that he was suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June 2013.
Immunotherapy is a relatively new form of treatment that focuses on tricking the body’s immune system into attacking cancer cells.
Rockett revealed last fall that his tongue cancer diagnosis was caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus. He said: “It is the number one leading cause of oral cancer these days. There’s less and less of the truck drivers that chew tobacco for thirty years getting it, because people are more aware that that kind of stuff isn’t good. So we are getting marathon runners and all these elite athletes with this. I have a friend that’s a therapist, and five years ago, it was five percent of the people she treated, and now it’s close to ninety percent.”
He continued: “It can be spread sexually, but now they’re saying that it can spread [through] deep-kissing and actually hand to mouth. I mean, if you see the Olympic swimmers, they swim and they smack their hand on the side of the pool for each lap, and their hands are full of warts and stuff from HPV. Now the wart kind of HPV is not the same as the strain that causes cancer, but it is spread almost identically. For men, you can’t tell if you have it. For women, you can get a papsmear. But the doctor estimated probably it was fifteen [or] twenty years ago [when I contracted it], and my body probably got rid of it, but it mutated itself and my body would probably see that again and get rid of it. But there’s no way to tell who got it. I mean, I know a couple that’s been married for fifteen years and they’ve never cheated on each other, and they’re pointing their finger at each other [after one of them was diagnosed with oral cancer], and it turned into a thing until the doctor sat ’em down and went, ‘Look, you can get this so many ways.'”
Rockett has a 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, and a 7-year-old son, Jude, with singer/songwriter Melanie Martel, from whom he filed for divorce last July after nearly seven years of marriage.
POISON appeared at the 2013 Indy 500 Miller Lite Carb Day, but has otherwise been mostly playing private shows, including one in January 2015. The band’s last major dates were with LITA FORD and DEF LEPPARD as part of the 2012 “Rock Of Ages” tour.