Advocates question the experts

Every year, CURE invites one advocate who is attending the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium to serve as a guest blogger. This year readers will be hearing from Bev Parker, PhD, a 24-year breast cancer survivor who is attending the symposium for the seventh year.For advocates, a significant highlight of the symposium is always the evening "Hot Topics" sessions, now in their 12th year. Hot Topics is sponsored by the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation, which this year awarded scholarships to 34 advocates to participate in the symposium. Slots to attend are highly sought after, and advocates may only apply every five years. (For more information, visit www.alamobreastcancer.org.)The two-hour Hot Topics sessions are held during three evenings following the daily presentations. Several well-known individuals who hold MD and/or PhD degrees participate on a panel of experts. Each day features a different panel and each person on the panel gives a 10 to 15 minute overview of what he or she found most interesting during the day.

Afterward, advocates are encouraged to ask questions, to which the panel members respond. We advocates are free to pose those questions we might feel too "dumb" to ask in open sessions. In turn, the experts often remark that Hot Topics sessions are the high point of the symposium for them. Here are a few of the interesting off-hand comments made by a few of the panel members:

>"We ask one [research] question and get two more" (Hyman Muss, MD).

>We don't know "how long is long enough on an AI [aromatase inhibitor]" (Judy Garber, MD).

>"Pharmacogenomics is the wave of the future" (Peter Ravdin, MD, PhD).

>"The bone is the first site of recurrence in a third of patients." (Julie Gralow, MD).

>"It's hard to wait to get the results of clinical trials." (Steven Shak, MD).Advocates have been brought into the scientific process more and more in recent years. We have talents, skills, and experience to offer, and we use them on grant review committees, institutional review boards, government committees, etc... In addition, one of our most valuable contributions is putting a "face" on the disease of breast cancer. We represent therapies that worked and are here to join with scientists and others to push for newer and better therapies that were not available for those who didn't make it, but will be for those who follow.More tomorrow!To read more articles from CURE's coverage of SABCS 2009, visit sabcs2009.curetoday.com.