The Human Genome Project was a really big deal, identifying the genes that make up our body. And quantum leaps in computing power, added to scientific discoveries, have been helping cancer specialists identify subtypes of disease, enabling drug developers to come up with ever more targeted therapies. More and more of these medicines for ever more narrow genetic subtypes of cancer are starting to blossom with the Food and Drug Administration anointing some with "breakthrough" status and the promise of quicker approvals. Major academic medical centers are now performing genetic analysis on the blood or biopsied tissue of new cancer...

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Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/AP The horror at the Boston Marathon finish line was felt around the world. I was shaken by the explosions in my home in Barcelona, where I now live, as I was a long-time marathoner. My son, Ari, is an elite marathon runner but opted not to run in Boston this year. Had Ari been there he would have been with his 78-year-old Seattle running club team member, Bill Iffrig, of Lake Stevens, Wash. He’s the elderly gentlemen wearing the orange singlet in a photo that went viral showing him as he was blown down...

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Marty Taft This is a personal story from my own family that, I believe, speaks to all of us as we age, face challenges and, hopefully, overcome them. The story is about my father-in-law, Marty Taft, a resident of Los Angeles and now 82-years young. Like many his age he has had health "interruptions." One came 20 years ago when he had a heart attack. Later came a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, like his father and brother. Fortunately, nothing stopped this former engineer as he was propelled into his senior years. About ten years ago, Marty became interested in...

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The headlines each day bring more good news about progress in treating blood cancers. We now know more than ever before about leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other disorders. There used to be a fairly standard approach to treatment, but that’s changed too. There are many subtypes and new therapies, new drug combinations, various clinical trial options and even uses of transplant vary depending upon the individual patient situation. One thing has not changed however: Receiving an accurate diagnosis at the start is absolutely critical. Susan O'Brien, MD Starting off with the wrong treatment could 1) Not be effective and/or bring...

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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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