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How to deal with cancer

Texas_wedge's picture
Posts: 2798
Joined: Nov 2011

A couple of good reads here. The first is sage advice for both cansurvivors and caregivers. The second is a brief but to-the-point indictment of our conduct of the battle against cancer on the national (and world-wide) scale.



lbinmsp's picture
Posts: 266
Joined: Jun 2006

The first article confirms what I've felt from the first day I was diagnosed. AND how I have continued to feel throughout the RCC battle. Research is for 'treatment' - not early detection and with RCC, 'cure' is a word that's used so loosely - almost, it seems, more palliative than anything else. The quote 'my treatment imperils my health' is precisely the reason I stopped. I could see no benefit whatsoever in living a life filled with drugs and the horrific side effects that come with them (what I call 'life at any cost) - when I could just simply live life filled with LIFE. OK - off the soap box.

The second article really hit the nail on the head! Being a cancer patient - and also a caregiver to one - I clearly understood both sides of the equation. I think the worst fear I ever felt - was as caretaker to my brother. I had never before or since felt so helpless - so hopeless - so inadequate! I know I've changed - so very much that if I thought about it a lot, I'd probably scare myself! I am so at peace with myself, I LIKE myself. People have left my life and others have jumped into the trench with me. And yes, people have been telling me what an 'inspiration' I am to them - to which laugh! ME? An inspiration? HUH? But I guess - I spend no time being sad or uhappy or crying or angry - WHAT a waste of energy and time! I don't fear the future - because I don't THINK about the future. Nobody knows that the future will bring - I think about today and maybe tomorrow and sometimes next week! Because I plan interesting and fun things to do - or a new book to read or a friend I need to visit. And I LOVE my medical team! I trust them implicitly and tell them that often. I think they need to hear that they're doing a good job and that someone really appreciates them! Can you imagine dealing with cancer patients hour after hour, day after day, week after week? WHEW!

OK boy I am on a soap box here! My apologies.


lbinmsp's picture
Posts: 266
Joined: Jun 2006

Fat finger - double post. SORRY

alice124's picture
Posts: 899
Joined: Mar 2012

TX - thanks for sharing. Very relevant articles.

And Liz, you're a breath of fresh air. I love reading your posts as your optimism always comes through.

Texas_wedge's picture
Posts: 2798
Joined: Nov 2011

I think most of us fail to appreciate the wealth of standing information and advice built into the sites of the major cancer organisations. There's a lot to be found, for instance, by exploring this ACS site, e.g. by following some of the links in the blue side-bar, to the left of this message. As I write, under "Cancer information" is a short piece entitled

"Cancer Drugs: Long Odds and Magic Bullets" which will interest some here.

It talks about targeted treatment and also links to another interesting earlier piece in April, in the same 'column' entitled

"The Future is Now: Personalized Medicine"

Among useful bits of info there are these snippets and I begin with a bit that commended itself to me as sage advice:

"Healthy living makes a difference

Our increased understanding of the genetic basis of disease has helped us realize how important it is that we take good care of our bodies. Smoking, obesity, and alcohol kill by causing DNA damage or exploiting genetic weakness. Exercise and a healthy diet are vital. Genomics will determine how these lifestyle decisions help cause or prevent disease. Personalized medicine will help each of us design lives to decrease the risk of illness and fight it when it occurs."

Other paragraphs include:

"Cancer is a result of damage to our genes. Cancer occurs when the switches inside your genes that control cell growth malfunction. If a growth gene is supposed to be turned off, it turns on. If a genetic switch is designed to prevent cancer growth, it fails. Cells that should be at rest begin to divide, and a tumor develops.

These damaged growth genes are called oncogenes. The damage can occur for three reasons. First, we may be born with a defective gene, such as the BRCA breast cancer gene. Second, exposure to toxins in our environment, such as smoking, can damage our genes. Finally, the genes simply wear out, which partially accounts for the increase in cancer as we age.

Knowing that oncogenes are the key, there can be no doubt that genetic based prevention and therapy will be crucial to winning the war on cancer.

The future: medicine based on our genes

Personalized medicine will be medical care based on our very core. Medicine based on our genes. This will completely change how treatments are given. Today, your physician picks therapies based on research done on thousands of other people. Doctors have only a limited ability to adjust therapy based on individual differences.

Researchers are working toward a future where each of us will have the opportunity to get a blood test to have a complete analysis of the 20,000 coding-genes which is our personal genetic blueprint. This data will be stored in our personal electronic medical chart. It will tell your physician critical information. What diseases are you likely to get? Heart disease? Colon cancer? Arthritis? Alzheimer's? What should be done to help prevent those diseases? Exercise? Yearly colonoscopy? Drugs? Gene therapy? What treatments will work for you, as an individual, and which will harm you?

In the future, if you do get cancer, the tumor itself will be tested. What oncogenes are turned on? What genes are turned off? What caused this to happen? Most important, what needs to be done to turn off those cancer genes and destroy the disease?

Science fiction? Not at all. We are starting to see the first use of personalized medicine techniques now with cancer treatment. Eventually, we will see this type of therapy for all human illness.

Breakthroughs are occurring

Many of the first breakthroughs in personalized medicine have occurred in breast cancer research. The identification of genes linked to breast cancer (BRCA1, BRCA2, CDH1, CHEK2, PTEN, p53, ATM) allows us to warn women and men at increased risk for cancer decades before it might develop. Individuals can then make decisions to help prevent or detect cancer early.

For women diagnosed with breast cancer, genetic testing on the cancer itself can help determine the need for chemotherapy and whether it will work (Oncotype-Dx). Finally, we are using drugs that directly attack targets in breast cancer cells detected by genetic testing (HER2).

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a blood cancer. This leukemia is caused by a specific genetic injury called BCR-ABL, also known as the Philadelphia Chromosome. Multiple medications have been created which specifically attack this gene (imatinib, dasatinib, nilotinib). Remarkably, these treatments can be taken by mouth, have few side effects, and in some patients, may actually cure them.

Lung cancer is a menace. Scientists have identified dozens of oncogenes that stimulate its growth. For example, we know that if certain genes are mutated, this leads to rapid lung cancer growth. With information about which oncogene is causing the cancer to grow, specific therapies can be developed to block that gene. The drug erlotinib only works if one type of gene is damaged. The medication crizotinib kills lung cancer by blocking another mutated gene. These treatments, which target specific genes, are resulting in some of the best response rates ever seen in lung cancer. Researchers believe future cancer therapy will consist of drug mixtures to block all activated oncogenes.

Cetuximab and panitumumab are two antibodies that were developed to treat colon cancer. However, at first it seemed as if they were a failure because they did not work in many patients. Then, it was discovered that if a cancer cell has a specific genetic mutation, known as K-ras, these drugs do not work. This is an excellent example of using individual tumor genetics to predict whether or not treatment will work. In the past, the oncologist would have had to try each therapy on every patient and then change when the cancer continued to grow.

A remarkable drug recently came on the market for a disease in which there is often little hope. Metastatic melanoma patients using vemurafenib are outliving patients who do not take the drug. This drug came out of research showing that a key genetic injury in melanoma is the BRAF mutation. Scientists then designed a medicine to attack that mutation.

Last year, more than 40,000 articles were published on cancer care. The most exciting of these related to personalized medicine. Genetic discoveries in brain tumors, pancreatic tumors, liver cancer, kidney cancer, leukemias, myelodyplasia, sarcomas, and oral cancers fill the medical journals. New techniques are being developed to study parts or even the entire genome."

garym's picture
Posts: 1651
Joined: Nov 2009

Once again I am both sad and very glad that you are a member here, this is cool stuff!!

foxhd's picture
Posts: 3183
Joined: Oct 2011

Yep, I agree with Gary. Excellent read. It is amazing to think about how I have let my continued education slide. I will read this a few times.

Texas_wedge's picture
Posts: 2798
Joined: Nov 2011

More and more lateral thinking to be seen - good to see so many medical scientists escaping from the box.


One always has to be a bit careful with suave medical journos, though. The piece refers to thiabendazole as an anti-fungal treatment whereas I believe it's actually an anti-helminthic medication. Nonethless, algorithms for utilising AI computational power to cut through the maze of possibilities is exciting.

PS Fox, do you let anyone play on your continued education slide?

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