Missing topics at SABCS


The first slide from every presenter at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium indicates whether they have any conflict of interest, which translated into English means whether they are getting paid by a pharmaceutical company or anyone else for anything.Last night at the symptom management educational session, which was packed, the speaker's slide said something to the effect that her topic, lymphedema and weight lifting, did not involve a drug and therefore was of no interest to anyone, so she had no conflict of interest. In other words, there would be no profit involved in what she did, except maybe for a few scattered personal trainers and the gyms where they work.I think I might be getting jaded around the edges. I look at the presentations here and see lots of really complicated topics involving the use of drugs in every conceivable way. But in the midst of all these presentations, where are the researchers who are looking at prevention and the mechanisms that make a cell go haywire in the first place? Where are the studies on the issues that make it possible to live with, through and in spite of breast cancer? These are issues such as depression, pain, sexuality, fatigue and fear. Barbara Anderson's work showed clearly that stress reduction reduced recurrence by 20 percent. If that was a drug, it would be international headlines.I don't want to malign research because I know it's critical, but can we make room for some of the other issues that are so critical to women living through breast cancer? Yesterday in Project LEAD, the opening speaker used a statistic to show how far we have come by noting that there were around 12,300 papers on breast cancer published in 2009 compared to more than 24,000 in 2010. I thought that sounded amazing until the next speaker from the National Breast Cancer Coalition asked whether that was a positive or a negative. Are we rewarding the right thing? Should papers and patents (read money) be the goal?As a former academic, I know firsthand the importance placed on publishing. It is the standard by which teachers are measured. The same is true for researchers. They get funds, their institutions get publicity, and women, sometimes, get the results.Let's celebrate those researchers and make room for studies on quality of life and survivorship.

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