Photo courtesy of Jennifer Glass This time of year we hear the word "exciting" used a lot when it comes to cancer. Specialists and clinical investigators in many cancer conditions are upbeat as study results come out at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting (ASCO) in Chicago and the European Hematology Association meeting in Stockholm. Patient Power is conducting many interviews at these conferences where experts tell us what they are excited about – typically that a new therapy with fewer side effects is helping physicians better manage a cancer for their patients. That's good news, of course. But...

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Do you have resources to deal with cancer that go beyond understanding treatment? Patients like me certainly spend a lot of time talking about treatments, and research into better treatments, which makes a lot of sense. But that’s just part of the cancer journey. Patients and caregivers also have personal struggles, often a family struggle, to cope, move through the cancer experience and to maintain hope – as well as enjoy the best of every day as it comes. Physicians have little training to help us with that. It's not really their job. But there are others who can help...

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Photo credit: People.com Even before the Human Genome Project blossomed with a map of all the genes in the body some genes had been identified as putting people at high risk for serious diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer. Actress Angelina Jolie is making news because she chose to have both breasts removed, with reconstruction with breast implants following. She made that aggressive cancer prevention choice because she was told a test result showed she carried the "breast and ovarian cancer genes: BRCA1 and BRACA2. Her mother died of breast cancer. Breast removal in an otherwise healthy woman, and...

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Time is limited, and time is money, right? Doctors never seem to have enough time. As our population ages, there are more people in need of care and with spiraling higher costs doctors are required to see more patients per day. There's little time for chit chat. At the same time medical science is making the practice and the treatment of serious health problems more complex. There are competing diagnostic tests, competing treatments, and many clinical trials. And empowered patients and family members want to have a consultation with their doctor, no longer accepting an "edict" telling them "this is...

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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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May 2013
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