It’s tough to be a cancer patient today. Not just because you have cancer, but because you have to do a lot of work to ensure you have knowledgeable doctors, the best care, and that you do your part. The human genome project has ushered in the age of "precision medicine." Cancer centers around the world are leveraging vastly cheaper approaches to analyzing the genetic profiles of a new patient's cancer. At the same time upstart biotech firms have been developing an increased parade of "targeted therapies," many of them in the form of expensive pills. The changes can be...

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Several years ago I attended an FDA Oncology Drug Advisory Committee (ODAC) hearing. What the medical experts and the FDA regulators wanted to know most was did a proposed new cancer medicine help people live longer? Not better, just longer. The CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) drug in question that day was not recommended for approval because they never could show a "survival advantage." I think the small biotech that made the drug ended up being closed down. Fortunately, the FDA has approved some other cancer drugs since then where they've helped people live better. I take one, Jakafi for myelofibrosis,...

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Very recently a review committee in the U.K. made a preliminary recommendation that the government's National Health Service should not pay for a newly approved medicine that greatly reduces or alleviates the symptoms of myelofibrosis (MF). MF develops when there is progressive scarring in the bone marrow that affects one's ability to make blood cells. Other organs like the spleen and liver try to take over the job and they become enlarged. Along with that, a patient experiences itching, fatigue and weight loss, as well as general malaise and suffering. While a new oral medicine, Jakafi in the U.S. and...

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In July, 2009 Jose kissed his wife and went out for a bike ride on a gray Seattle day. He never was able to return home. A van hit him. And while he had enough of a flicker of life to be brought to the hospital, he died. And his wife, Chanel Reynolds , mother of two children, had no clue about many of the necessary details of their life together. She didn't even know the password to his mobile phone, let alone insurance and financial details. She was unprepared for the death of a loved one, not just emotionally,...

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I have become very involved in my son's school here in Barcelona and go there two mornings a week to take a Spanish class. I am usually there early and, because people are checking out patientpower.info, some folks are beginning to speak to me about medical topics. Last week came word a 10-year-old fifth grader had been suddenly diagnosed with a large tumor on one of her ovaries. Everyone was in shock. On the very day the girl was having surgery to remove the tumor her father called me looking for guidance. My advice was a reprise from what is...

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How many stories have you read or seen lately about Lance Armstrong? As a cancer survivor I am ready to move on. He lied and he bullied. He beat cancer – with the help of sound medicine and maybe good fortune. I wore one of those yellow bracelets for more than 10 years as an affirmation of living beyond cancer. I don't wear the bracelet anymore but I still respect the LIVESTRONG Foundation even if I don't respect Lance. Rather than saying one more word about a disgraced athlete who shows cancer patients come with a wide range of morals,...

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When someone is stricken with a serious illness their world is rocked. I know, it has happened to me with cancer twice. And, in this age of social media, you might well go searching online for information and posting your story of fear and uncertainty. The health-related communities are full of introductions from newly diagnosed patients or their loved ones. The community I found was lifesaving. But I wanted to make a comment and tell a story. The comment: when sick people do better, or even get well, they go on with their lives and they may no longer post...

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The news around leukemia has been so positive. The recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Atlanta was buzzing about it. New powerful, promising medicines for CLL and CML and better approaches for acute leukemias too. Just before ASH I conducted a lengthy interview with Randy Shirley, 55, from Marysville, Washington, north of Seattle. Patient Power senior producer, Autumn Eadon was on site as we discussed topics including his CLL diagnosis three years ago, the fact that standard therapies didn't work for long, his hospitalizations, his entry into a new phase I clinical trial (ABT-199), and his devotion to...

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Andrew Schorr shares his optimism for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood cancers, while attending the 2012 American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Is chemo dead? Maybe not yet, but in some diseases it is fading fast. In 2000 I was one of the early patients to receive FCR for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in a phase II trial, and thousands have followed. The F and the C are chemotherapies and they are not kind to your body. Many patients, including me, have received a long remission and we are, of course, very grateful. But others have not done nearly as well. So the search for better, less toxic cancer treatments has continued. Now the research appears to be paying off. As we...

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March 2013
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