Finding the Right Balance

CURE, Spring 2017, Volume 1, Issue 1

OPIOIDS CAN BE HELPFUL DURING AND AFTER CANCER TREATMENT — WHEN THEY ARE USED APPROPRIATELY.

THE ISSUE OF OPIOID ADDICTION has received a lot of public attention, and for good reason: The rate of overdose deaths associated with these legal painkillers is on the rise, in some cases preceded by the pills falling into the hands of people to whom they weren’t prescribed.

The medical community should consider concerns about overdose, balanced against the need to control disabling pain in patients with various health conditions. But what should this effort look like in the cancer community? Do doctors and patients in this arena have unique concerns, and should they make their decisions according to a different set of guiding principles?

In this issue of CURE®, we consider the use of opioids by patients who have severe pain due to cancer or its treatments. Specifically, we consider a new trend toward multimodal therapy, which can involve opioids given in combination with non-opioid painkillers and integrative therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis and meditation. It’s a strategy that can help prevent opioid addiction while also avoiding other long-term side effects of these strong drugs, such as hormonal changes.

Our cover story, meanwhile, looks at research to capitalize on the uncanny ability of specially trained dogs to accurately sniff out cancer. We consider the details of promising studies across the spectrum of cancer types, but also the need for standardization in many aspects of this field.

Elsewhere in Spring CURE®, we report on what you need to know about a range of inherited cancers, the genetic mutations that drive them and the testing that can uncover these issues. In an article on polypharmacy, we discuss the dangers that can come from adding anticancer drugs to the medications a patient may be taking for other conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In these cases, we emphasize, it’s crucial that the medical team be aware of all medicines a patient is taking, as a means of avoiding dangerous drug interactions.

Finally, in an interesting twist of fate, a relatively new class of drugs used in autoimmune and blood disorders has been shown reverse a specific type of hair loss, which affects some of those treated for cancer. Our article gives the details.

We hope this array of information is both informative and thought-provoking, and that it helps you define your questions and seek their answers as you move through the health care experience. As always, thank you for reading.

MIKE HENNESSY, SRChairman and CEO