Saturday, November 25, 2017

DNA trials may end mammograms, colonoscopies

Doc expects blood tests that predict cancer recurrences to have major effect on millions

In the not-so-distant future, a single blood test may be able to locate cancer.
Dr. Salvatore Iaquinta
At least that's the prediction of Dr. Salvatore Iaquinta, "Highway to Health" columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and a surgeon at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael.

Noting in a recent piece headlined "Closing in on cancer" that "we already have blood tests to monitor for cancer recurrences," Iaquinta forecasts the end of mammograms and colonoscopies.

Biomarkers "that expose the presence of otherwise invisible recurrences," he indicates, are already known for "certain ovarian, prostate, breast, liver and pancreatic cancers."

The same applies to some thyroid cancers.

But researchers at Johns Hopkins, he notes, have now "announced their success developing a 'liquid biopsy' — a blood test to screen for cancer DNA."

And "for patients with colon cancer, the screening test found about 90 percent of all stage 2, 3 and 4 cancers."

Iaquinta adds that it was almost as important that false positives didn't result.

And although the experimental tests for breast, lung and ovarian cancers didn't fare as well, they did find "at least 45 percent of stage 1 cancers for each of these tumor types," he writes.

Researchers at Stanford, the doctor maintains, "have done the same sort of profiling with some types of lymphoma."

And the "Institute of Cancer Research in London also found a tumor DNA for breast cancer and has announced they can detect recurrent disease eight months before standard tests reveal it."

In the meantime, a different group at Stanford "used a similar test to detect the effect of chemotherapy on women being treated for breast cancer. They found that a blood test could predict how the tumor was responding to treatment within two weeks of the start of treatment, far earlier than the standard methods."

The experimental process is not yet available to the general public and is still expensive, Iaquinta explains, "because of the cost of DNA sequencing. But like everything else tech, the price will come down as scientists find easier, faster ways to run the tests."

He concludes that "the ability to detect multiple cancers from a simple blood draw will have a profound effect on millions, and ultimately billions, of lives."

More information about experimental drugs and treatments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New chemotherapy plan echoes AIDS deal

2 major drug manufacturers slash prices to help fight cancer in six poor African countries

In a deal similar to the one that turned the tide against AIDS, manufacturers and charities will make chemotherapy drugs available at steep discounts, according to a recent story by Donald G. McNeil Jr. in The New York Times.

Two major pharmaceutical companies —  Pfizer and Cipla, based respectively in New York and Mumbai— are working with the American Cancer Society to make it happen, the story indicates. 

They've apparently agreed to charge "rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs," McNeil's piece says — "just above…manufacturing costs."

As an add-on, top American oncologists plan to "simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for under-equipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will build those guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection," the story continues.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci

The piece also quotes Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that "this gave me goose bumps. I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I think it has a good chance of working."

Fauci said it reminded him "of his work in 2002 helping design the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief" — a plan that's been successful (24 million Africans are currently on HIV drugs).

Cancer, the story says, "now kills about 450,000 Africans a year. By 2030, it will kill almost 1 million annually, the World Health Organization predicts." 

Most common African cancers, it continues, "are the most treatable, including breast, cervical and prostate tumors."

But in contrast to the United States, where 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive at least five years, in Uganda, "only 46 percent do; in Gambia, a mere 12 percent,"  McNeil's story asserts.

One major African problem is that there are few cancer specialists. 

For example, in Ethiopia, one of the six countries that will be covered by the new agreement, there are "only four oncologists for its 100 million citizens," according to the Times piece. "Nigeria has about 40 for its population for 186 million."

Uganda has only 16 oncologists "and its only radiotherapy machine…has been broken for over a year. Before its 21-year-old gears gave out, the machine's cobalt source had become so week that irradiation sessions meant to last minutes took an hour."

Caution about how well the program will work is being urged.

According to McNeil's story, "even with cheaper drugs, progress against cancer in Africa will be slower than it was against AIDS, all parties to the deal warned" — partially because cancer "comprises an entire family of diseases," unlike AIDS, which "is caused by a single pathogen that can be suppressed, albeit not cured, with a daily three-drug pill."

More information on cancer drugs and treatments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Recurrence foils woman's try to thank med team

Breast cancer survivor buys 26 Gaga tickets to thank support system but dies before concert

Life is filled with sad ironies.

Such as the recent case of a breast cancer survivor spending $10,000 to buy 26 tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Washington, D.C., to thank her medical team and family-and-friends support system, only to die three months before she could attend.

According to news reports, Melissa Anne Dabas, 42, passed away listening to a Lady Gaga song while holding hands with her anesthesiologist husband, Jay.

Melisa Anne Dabas and her sons.
The Virginia mother of two boys, a super-fan of the pop singer, had been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in the spring of 2016, underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, and was declared cancer-free.

But the disease returned.

The tickets included 18 box seats valued at $1,500 each. Her family decided to raffle off 10 of them to benefit their newly established Melissa Ann Dabas Charitable Trust, an adjunct of the Winchester Medical Center Foundation's Angel Fund.

The aim? To help cancer patients with non-medical expenses.

The concert is scheduled for Nov. 19. Jay is planning to go with their two sons — Avinash, 11, and Sajan, 8 — and is planning to take a large photo of his late wife so she, in a sense, can be there.

Jay wrote on his Facebook page that raising funds via the raffle may "help me keep her voice and spirit and legacy alive."

A story by Petula Dvorak in The Independent, a British publication, quotes him as saying, "I'd get home from work, and she'd tell me all these stories — not about herself but how these people were having a hard time buying food. Or who's going to pay the rent? These people were all having a difficult time covering the non-medical expenses of cancer. Cancer doesn't discriminate, it doesn't only affect people who are able to pay. And this really bothered her. And it was something she never got to do anything about."

To learn more about the disease, its treatments and its aftermath, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cheat misspells doc's name on fraudulent form

Woman who feigned disease owes 652 hours of community service to cancer facilities

You could call it poetic justice.

A Colorado judge has imposed, in my opinion, a fitting sentence (and fine) on a female postal worker who faked cancer and was convicted of fraud.

Judge Raymond Moore
According to a story by Alex Horton in the Washington Post that was reprinted in many newspapers across the country, U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore recently sentenced Caroline Boyle to "serve 652 hours of community service at a cancer treatment center, cancer research center or hospice — which is precisely how many hours of falsified sick leave she took" from the U.S. Postal Service office in Aurora, Colorado.

The judge also imposed five years of probation (including six months of home confinement with an electronic monitor, "along with a $10,000 fine and restitution of exactly $20,798.38, acting U.S. Attorney for Colorado Bob Troyer said in a statement."

The figure represented what the 60-year-old Boyle, who had worked for the postal service since 1991, was paid for administrative sick leave while missing two years of work after claiming "that cancer attacked her white blood cells and ravaged her immune system, leaving Boyle too weak to come into work."

Bob Troyer
Boyle's illegal acts were discovered partially because she'd misspelled a doctor's name and botched the signature when she scribbled a note "presumably detailing [her] non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," Horton's story said.

She reportedly confessed when confronted with proof of her misdeeds.

Boyle had intended "to continue defrauding the government with sick leave until her retirement in April, which she planned to celebrate with a Hawaiian cruise."

Real facts about real diseases, their real treatments and real aftermaths are contained in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.