In the perpetual struggle between existence and darkness, the cancer that engulfed Brian Moran’s life when he was 17 had one good shot at killing him. Fortunately, it missed. In those days, testicular cancer was essentially a death warrant for teen-age boys. “If I had been diagnosed a year earlier, I would have died,” he says.
But he beat cancer over two years, thanks to Cisplatin, a platinum-based drug invented by Indiana University oncologist Lawrence Einhorn that cures testicular cancer.
“I’ve been cancer-free ever since,” Moran says. “I’m a pretty resilient guy, but those years were very dark days for me.”
So, as narrative demands, Moran took the challenge that fate presented. He became a physician at Loyola’s Stritch Medical School, and then a radiology oncologist specializing in prostate cancer. He would cure in others what had almost killed him. There is hardly anyone in the world better at this war than Dr. Moran. He has an army of oncologists, researchers, nurses and technicians at his personal command, and he takes cancer personally.
Patients routinely get his private cell phone number. No one gets an answering machine at his Chicago Prostate Cancer Center which he launched in 1997 and then reimagined architecturally in 2006. The center is a gleaming 35,000-square-foot futuristic facility off the road from Westmont to Hinsdale.
Its approach is unique in the world, he says. Yes, compared to medicine 20 years ago, miracles are done here every day. Cancer dies and people live. If you are drawn to cosmic connect-the-dots, consider that cancer’s inability to kill Moran in 1978 almost surely has allowed men to be alive today, who would not be had they not met Moran.
“As a kid, I wanted to be a race car driver,” Moran says. “I wanted to be lots of things.”
But that was in his high school glory days as a star swimmer on a star-spangled Hinsdale Central High School team. “I was a Hinsdale kid, born in the Hinsdale hospital, grew up here, went to Hinsdale schools, married a Hinsdale girl, and I stayed a Hinsdale kid.”
But at 56, Moran may be the most acclaimed radiation oncologist in Chicago. He is so different as a physician—driven but effervescent—that competitive colleagues are not his best friends, most notably because his research often makes their treatments obsolete and for a much cheaper price.
“I started this practice originally in 1997 because I had been doing the therapy in the hospital setting, but it was never 100 percent right,” he says.
What he needed was a tight, spirited team spanning every discipline, all patient-obsessed, all cure-focused.
“I remember admiring race car teams and how one guy would change the tires, another would fill the gas in seven seconds. That’s what we have now. You go outside in the halls here and everyone you run into has one job, and they are each masters at it.”
He seems to have developed a medical Seal Team Six.
But Moran also educates patients. At one time two decades ago, men did not talk about prostate cancer, just as women did not talk about breast cancer. But in Moran’s world, the patient must be an active co-architect of their own cure.
“When I talk to support groups, I stress that prostate cancer is a spectrum, just like people on the autism spectrum,” he says. “At one end, the disease is so slow-moving that you’d never even blink about treatment. On the other end, it can be a lethal and fast moving. But you have to find which one it is.”
He would talk longer, but he’s getting patient telephone calls. He must move along. So, clad in his blue surgical scrubs and blue plastic booties, he bolts through the door and is gone on another mission. One thing is certain though. The man who calls himself “just a Hinsdale kid” likely has another 20 years of practice ahead. “I don’t think I’ll ever be doing something other than this as long as I am able,” he says.
The Chicago Prostate Cancer Center is at 815 Pasquinelli Drive in Westmont, 630-654-2515, prostateimplant.com.