Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Roger Ebert

Esquire magazine wrote a great article on Roger Ebert, the well known film critic. He had thyroid cancer which spread to his head and neck. It is a beautifully written piece. Here’s a link to the article...

The following is an excerpt from the article on page 7 and is so well written by Roger Ebert that I’m including it here for ease of reference…

Ebert is dying in increments, and he is aware of it.

From Roger Ebert... I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear, he writes in a journal entry titled "Go Gently into That Good Night." I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

All for now, stay healthy and take care.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Advances in DNA Sequencing and the Impact on Cancer Treatment

Johns Hopkins University's Kimmel Cancer Center Researchers took a novel approach in detecting cancer in patients. Instead of looking for tiny DNA changes within cells, they looked for large sections of the genome of tumor cells which have been rearranged. The DNA of tumors varies genetically from that of normal tissue, and the rearrangements are essentially a fingerprint of the cancer.

The findings suggest that by testing blood for this fingerprint, doctors will be able to learn whether a patient treated for cancer is free of disease or needs additional or more aggressive care.

Here’s a link to the article…

What makes this so important to me and millions of others in remission is the establishment of a clearer path for how long we continue maintenance therapy. To help put this in perspective, my maintenance therapy runs into the five figures annually and there is little evidence based guidance on how long this should continue. As long as this therapy is not harming me, the risk of a head and neck cancer recurrence (in pain, suffering, and dollars) far outweighs the cost of continuing the current maintenance regimen. I suspect there are millions of others in a similar situation.

The above article states that advance in the cost of sequencing a patient's entire genome has fallen sharply—to less than $10,000 now from about $1 million three years ago. Experts predict that the cost will soon get to about $1,000, potentially making it affordable for medical centers to routinely run the genome of patients with cancer and other diseases.

In our need as a nation to reign in health care costs while balancing the quality of care, this has the potential within the next 5 years to begin saving billions of dollars, yes that’s billions, without sacrificing health care quality.

Stay healthy and take care.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

“Cancer cure” or “I Am Legend.” Time will tell

A friend sent me an article this past weekend on a new drug in a phase II clinical trial for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (basically head and neck cancer). The drug is Reolysin and is owned by Oncolytics Biotech (ONCY) based in Alberta Canada. It is nearing completion of a phase II trial for head and neck cancer and has shown a positive response on 42% of the patients compared to 10% in the control group.

Reolysin is derived from a virus. According to this article, the virus is harmless to healthy human cells. One of the primary issues with chemotherapies is targeting the cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells alone. Cells have pathways and scientists and cancer researchers have been using different cell pathways to specifically target cancer cells.

This drug is attracted to the Ras pathway which is turned on in many cancer cells and turned off in healthy cells. Reolysin is infused into the body daily over a few day time period. The virus enters the cancer cells via the Ras pathway, multiplies, and overwhelms the cell until it dies leaving all healthy cells alone. The virus dies along with the cancer cell. This is pretty remarkable stuff.

The success of the phase II trial is prompting active planning for a phase III trial. Here is a link to the article…

For those that did not see the movie "I Am Legend" staring Will Smith, the storyline is a cancer vaccine derived from a virus which turns 90% plus of the population into flesh eating zombies who are killing the remaining human race.

Stay healthy and take care.