Sometimes there’s no way to mend a person or a bad situation. You can’t deny reality. But if you’re still conscious and able to communicate, you may be able to lessen the damage you’ve done, or the pain someone else is experiencing, just a bit.
This slim 1956 novel by Mark Harris, oddly elegant in its tenderness and guyish language, resonates today.
This week the ACS released its annual report on Cancer Facts and Figures in the U.S. The journal Cancer analyzes and considers the data in a helpful article. Some of the key and mainly positive findings have been covered elsewhere: Between 1990 and 2008, death rates from cancer in the U.S. declined rather steadily, overall, by […]
A metastasis refers to a lump of cancer cells that’s physically separated from the original tumor. A metastasis can be local, like when colon cancer spreads to a nearby lymph node in the gut, or distant, as when lung cancer cells generate tumors in the adrenal gland, liver, bone or brain. Sometimes metastases cause serious […]
The FDA recently identified a link between breast implants and a rare form of lymphoma. From today’s report in the New York Times: When talking to patients about a rare type of cancer linked to breast implants, plastic surgeons should call it “a condition” and avoid using the words cancer, tumor, disease or malignancy, the […]
I first heard about STI-571 (Gleevec, a targeted cancer therapy) from a cab driver in New Orleans in 1999. “Some of the doctors told me there’s a new cure for leukemia,” he mentioned.
We were stuck in traffic somewhere between the airport and the now-unforgettable convention center. His prior fare, a group of physicians in town for the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting, spoke highly of a promising new treatment. It seemed as if he wanted my opinion, to know if it were true. Indeed, Dr. Brian Druker gave a landmark plenary presentation on the effectiveness of STI-571 in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) at the conference. I was aware of the study findings.
“Yes,” I said. “There is a new drug for leukemia.”
Since then, oncologists’ enthusiasm for targeted therapies – medications designed to fight cancer directly and specifically – has largely held. But the public’s enthusiasm is less apparent. Perhaps that’s because many people are unaware of these new drugs’ potential, or they’re put off by their hefty price tags.
Today the NY Times printed the third part of Amy Harmon’s excellent feature on the ups and downs and promise of some clinical trials for cancer. The focus is on a new drug, PLX4032, some people with melanoma who chose to try this experimental agent, and the oncologists who prescribed it to them.
What I like about this story is that, besides offering some insight on the drug itself, it balances the patients’ and doctors’ perspectives; it explains why some people might elect to take a new medication in an early-stage clinical trial and why some physicians push for these protocols because they think it’s best for their patients.
And it provides a window into the world of academic medicine, where doctors’ collaborate among themselves and sometimes with corporations.
Here’s some of what I learned: