Taking Exceptionalism to a New Level

May 16, 2016
Mike Hennessy, Sr.

CURE, Spring 2016, Volume 15, Issue 2

When it comes to cancer treatment, why do some patients respond better than others? That’s a question researchers are working tirelessly to answer.

WHEN IT COMES TO cancer treatment, why do some patients respond better than others? That’s a question researchers are working tirelessly to answer, because, ultimately, a deeper understanding of these dynamics could lead to more effective treatments for broader swaths of patients with cancer.

In the spring issue of CURE, we dive into the world of exceptional responders. Until a few years ago, stories of these patients who enjoyed unusually good outcomes did not give researchers much of a springboard for exploration, but thanks to advances in technology, scientists now have the ability to gather precise genomic data on each patient and analyze them. Now, that technology is being formally applied in the study of exceptional responders — notably, for instance, by the National Cancer Institute.

These advances in the study of exceptional responders are a step toward matching the right patients with the right medications, and toward the development of new medications for their future care and treatment.

It’s an exciting time in precision medicine, and that’s illustrated, as well, by another article in this issue, on basket and umbrella trials. While still a new idea, these kinds of trials — which match patients to medications based on the mutations that drive their cancers, rather than on where in their bodies the cancers emerged — are gaining ground. By focusing so closely on what drives each cancer, the trials are opening a doorway to personalized therapy for many patients who may otherwise never have had that chance, particularly those with rare cancers.

Yet another exciting move forward is also highlighted in this issue — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the marketing of DigniCap chemotherapy cooling caps. These caps, for some patients with breast cancer taking certain chemotherapies, can lessen the hair loss associated with these drugs. Hair loss can take an emotional toll on patients, and some may end up feeling self-conscious. Perhaps even more importantly, preserving their hair during chemotherapy allows patients to be more private about the fact that they have cancer, giving them more control over who they speak with about their illness, and under what circumstances.

Finally, our spring issue offers a glimpse at issues men sometimes face as they learn to be good caregivers to their wives following a diagnosis of cancer. For some, becoming the caregiver means switching roles, and our article gives advice through interviews with men who have experienced this difficulty, and with professional counselors.

Whether you are fighting cancer now, are a survivor or are caring for a loved one with cancer, we hope the spring issue of CURE — filled with strategies and the personal stories of others on their own cancer journeys — inspires you each day. As always, thank you for reading.