Monthly Archives: June 2014

Social Media And Cancer Awareness: Are We Smart Enough To Take Advantage Of The Opportunity?

This past week I had the privilege of participating in a meeting hosted by the President’s Cancer Panel on the role of social media in improving cancer control and treatment. The goal was to give advice to the Panel on a planned series of meetings they will be convening to discuss the topic. It was the range and quality of the discussion that day that left me thinking about the broader topic of social media and how it could help improve cancer control going forward. [more]

I do not profess to be a social media expert. I do (obviously) engage in social media in a couple of ways, primarily through my blogs and Twitter (@DrLen), but I am not an addict. And notwithstanding the fact that social media has become a standard communication format for many folks, especially the younger generation, I still wonder how we are going to harness this revolution to improve what people know about cancer, what we can do with that information and how we can raise awareness about cancer-related issues such as new treatments, prevention, survivorship and clinical trials among many other topics.

The reality is that there hasn’t been much impact of social media … Continue reading →

Lung-MAP–A Bold Initiative To Find New Treatments For Squamous Cell Lung Cancer–Launches Today

Today marks a major step forward in cancer clinical trials and drug development with the launch of the Lung-MAP protocol to evaluate new treatments for squamous cell lung cancer, a common cancer which has proven resistant to the standard drugs currently available. In response to this genuine unmet need, Lung-MAP has been designed to move new therapies more quickly from the laboratory to the bedside of patients afflicted with this serious disease and few options available.

Many–including present company–have written about the need to improve this process. We are in a new era of cancer drug development, spearheaded by our ever increasing knowledge of cancer genes and the targets within those genes that can be used to disrupt the cancer cell on its inexorable road to proliferation and destruction. Getting those drugs speedily through development and clinical testing has been a real challenge. And, going forward, finding the patients with the “right” genomic signature who are candidates to receive these therapies is going to be difficult. In simple terms, we need to find the patients where they live and match them to these new drugs as quickly as possible. And that hopefully will translate into more and … Continue reading →

ASCO 2014 Is A Wrap: If Immunotherapy Is The Queen Of The Ball, Then Panomics Holds The Keys To The Kingdom

As in years past, the trip home from the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago gives me a moment to reflect on what I have heard and hopefully learned over the past five days.

This meeting is a whirlwind of activity and information, far too much for any one person to absorb and process. You can be focused on one topic, you can be general, and you can hear new cutting edge research or be educated on topics of general interest in cancer. You can go to the exhibit hall and be overwhelmed by the booths and displays (I tend not to go there, but obviously many others do). I suspect you get the idea.

Ultimately for me it is the take away messages about trends in cancer research and cancer care that matter the most personally. And this year the trends appear to be somewhat similar to past years, with perhaps some new wrinkles. What is undeniable is that if immunotherapy is the queen at the ball, then “panomics” (I really like that word) holds the keys to the kingdom. [more]

As I started with last week, the cost of drugs is on the … Continue reading →

The Picture With The Smile That Says So Much About Advances In Cancer Care

It was the picture (see below) that, to me, said it all: a 96 year old woman — one of the first patients in the world to receive a brand new cancer drug–, and a large tumor on her neck had melted completely away. But it was the smile on her lips that you couldn’t avoid noticing. [more]

Let’s set the stage: You have spent the last 5 days in a large convention center at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago running from presentation to presentation and meeting to meeting. You have heard more information presented in more rapid fire sequence than any human being can possibly absorb. You have logged 22 miles (literally) in the process. You are a bit tired and run down, sitting in the last presentation of the last session on the last day of the meeting and you are craving to return home. Then the lecturer shows a picture that reminds you why you do what you do.

The topic of the session was a new drug to treat cancer. It is called MEDI4736 and is in the general class of immunotherapy drugs which have generated so much excitement … Continue reading →

Big Steps Forward In Melanoma Treatment But Tread Carefully

The brave new world of melanoma treatment continues at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. And notwithstanding the excitement, there are some other pieces of information around the edges that remind us once again that a breakthrough today may not be quite as promising when viewed a couple of years from now. [more]

First the good news: reports at the meeting today will introduce a new immunotherapy drug that has shown significant promise as an effective treatment for advanced melanoma. More importantly, the company says in a press release that it is going to making the drug immediately to patients through an “expanded access” program if those patients have been previously treated with ipilimumab or a BRAF inhibitor, such as vemurafenib.

The drug is now designated as MK-3475, and it is a drug which allows our bodies’ immune cells to fight melanoma (and other) cancer cells in a unique fashion by helping restore their immune function. It’s too complicated to explain here, but basically cancer cells can overwhelm the body’s natural defense mechanisms and shut them down by exhaustion. This new type of drug blocks that process and reawakens the immune cells which can … Continue reading →

In An Era Of Bold New Cancer Treatments An Older Drug Shows Real Promise For Advanced Prostate Cancer

The annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology here in Chicago is a place where many commercial interests jostle for attention to make their latest promising therapy the star of the show. But this weekend, a standard widely available generic drug stole the show by producing incredible results in improving survival for men with advanced prostate cancer. And that has some of us asking, “Why did it take so long to find out? [more]

The drug is docetaxel, which for decades has been used to treat a number of cancers, including prostate cancers. We have known for some time that it is helpful in the treatment of men who have prostate cancer that has spread and no longer responds to hormone treatments (which are called “androgen deprivation therapy” or ADT and are the first line of treatment for most men when their prostate cancer first recurs). But we didn’t know if docetaxel would benefit men with advanced prostate cancer if it was used earlier, when used in combination with ADT at the time of first recurrence.

To find out, researchers studied men who developed or presented with prostate cancer that had spread to the bone … Continue reading →