ASCO: big meeting for cancer patients

Kathy LaTour blog image

Much of the CURE staff leaves for Chicago tomorrow for the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting where some 30,000 oncologists and affiliated cancer researchers and advocates will get together to release data, talk and share ideas about their latest studies on drugs and, in a few instances, other aspects of treatment and recovery from cancer.

I will be writing for summer issue of the magazine, but also blogs and for the web. I find myself excited at the prosepct of this trip, although my feet (I have peripheral neuropahy) are already telling me to remember to sit down and plan well since McCormick Place is the largest convention center in the country. I actually rented a scooter for Sunday when I anticipate my feet will be screaming at me. Should be interesting.

But maybe, just maybe, in all that collective brain power there will be a moment when someone thinks of something new, a way to combine drugs in a way that hasn't been thought of before. I just keep thinking of all the cancer energy there in that one space. Boy am I an optimist. No, I have faith.

But we had two new drugs for melanoma approved this week, and it's been a while since we had something for melanoma. I am ready to see a huge breakthough like we had in 2000 with the appearance of targeted therapies. I know that we really are on the cusp of personalized cancer treatment for each person, but maybe it's just not happening fast enough.

Every time I have a friend diagnosed, I am reminded that it's not happening fast enough.

And yet, we have come so far since my first diagnosis when breast cancer was black and white -- you either had breast cancer or you didn't. Now there are so many distinctions in that diagnosis to determine how treatment will proceed. I know that and yet when I look at the number of women dying every year, it's still around 40,000. And when I hear from my former student Carrie, who is only 31 and metastatic, my heart breaks. I want good news this week in Chicago.

Do you hear that folks. We, all of us who have run the gauntlet, we want more than good news -- we want remarkable news. We want to hear that there has been a breakthrough that will bring the numbers way down like they did for guys with testicular cancer when Larry Einhorn, the oncologist in Indiana, decided to use Cisplatin on advanced testicular cancer.

A few years ago, I went to Indiana and had the opportunity to write about John Cleland, the first man to get Cisplatin for advanced testicular cancer. John was in his early 20s and had extensive metastasis, and he told me that he was sure that Einhorn gave him Cisplatin because after examining him Einhorn told him how bad it was and Cleland says he just sat there. Finally, Cleland told me, he felt like Einhorn was feeling like he should say someting, so he said, "Well there is one thing we can try."

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