LOS ANGELES (CBS) — You have probably seen him in the Coen brothers movies, “Seinfeld,” “Two and Half Men,” “The Mentalist” — from theater to film and TV, actor Jon Polito is a veteran of over a hundred films. He is a great, who has worked with many of the greats.
“I have gotten to work with Brando, Faye Dunaway, Coen, Gandolfini, and Finney,” Polito said. “I’ve never had another job, first the theater and then television and film.”
But possibly his most challenging role came last year, when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“They basically said this is a very aggressive disease and you could die… They gave me less than six months to live, unless there was aggressive treatment,” Polito said.
The cancer that he was diagnosed with was multiple myeloma. City of Hope’s Dr. Amrita Krishnan specializes in cancers of the blood.
“It’s a disease of the bone marrow plasma cells. It’s the second most common blood cancer unfortunately right now still incurable,” Dr. Krishnan said.
It may be incurable, but it is not unmanageable. The survival of people with myeloma is increasing because of new medications and therapies.
Polito was treated with a combination of new drugs, a high dose of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and then more chemo. He remains on these drugs, which are having unbelievable results and he is part of a clinical trial.
“I am in what they call complete remission,” Polito said. “My numbers were 70 percent of my blood a year ago and they’re now 1 percent, which is less than most people have.”
Polito’s story would have been much different had it not been for research that led to new treatments.
At City of Hope, some of the cancer research is being funded by the Dodgers official charity, ThinkCure!. It is research that is making a difference, benefiting people like Polito.
“The only way these new drugs come to be is through research and clinical trials,” Dr. Krishnan said.
While Polito is in remission, he will most likely need treatment again, but the doctor believes a cure is in sight.
“My hope is really that once he finishes his maintenance therapy, that he goes on to win an Oscar, remembers me in his speech and does not have to get any treatment for years and years,” Dr. Krishnan said.
“I’ve get an ache and pain now and I’m so concerned, ‘Oh my God, does it have anything to do with the cancer?’ And they say, ‘No, you’re 60-years old, you’ve got a little arthritis.’ And I say, ‘What do you mean, that I have aches and pains and they’re not connected with some major disease?’ And that’s what what’s happening. Life goes on thank God.”
Polito is feeling great and is already working on his next film. He knows cancer research is why he is still alive and thriving.