Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are researchers getting closer to a breakthrough in how to treat cancer?

An article in today's Boston Globe reported of evidence pointing to cancer stem cells as the cause of cancer returning after what appears to be successful treatment by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy (or as some of us call it - slash, poison and burn).  Most chemotherapy attacks fast-growing cells, which is thought to be the right approach to stopping the cancer in its tracks.  And it's the reason for the miserable side effects because many good cells are destroyed in the process.  But there has been ongoing debate for more than a decade about whether or not rare, slower growing stem cells that are often left behind after treatment, are the key to understanding metastatic cancer.  This theory was discussed in one of several articles in 2006:

And today, there appears to be new, more substantial evidence that controlling stem cells may be the key to controlling or curing cancer:

A small Cambridge-based company, Verastem, is currently developing drugs that will attack these stem cells.  The overview on their website explains why getting to the root cause of "mets" is so important...over time, cancer cells develop an immunity to chemo, then you move on to another and then another...until all current chemos have been exhausted and you run out of options.  And then the cancer runs over you.  In my mind, it's not unlike the "super-bugs" that have developed because of our overuse of antibiotics.  How many times can a child be put on amoxicillin for an ear infection before it stops working and your pediatrician must prescribe a different one?  Of course, the difference is that the ear infection will usually be cured.  Not the case with cancer.

This is the type of research and results that gives me hope, hope that I can be around long enough to see and benefit from the completion of the "race for the cure."

A little update on me since so many of you have asked...

I am doing quite well on Xeloda.  We did have to reduce the dose to 1000 mg twice a day because of some side effects (blisters on my feet which are much improved and small mouth sores which have also disappeared).  I have a PET/CT scan on the schedule for Monday, August 6th at 11:30.  You can be sure I'll be getting a CD of that scan immediately afterwards, along with a copy of the last one (which I gave up to my Dana Farber oncologist).  And I will "play" radiologist as I always do, comparing the two scans and hoping for either a) no evidence of disease (NED as we like to call it); b) regression (a relationship with Reggie-boy would be acceptable); or c) stability (the stable boy is OK, too).  Alternative d) would be progression, and there is no room in my brain for that thought!

I've also taken up bike riding for fun and a little fitness.  I loved watching everyone, including my husband, participating in The Prouty this month.  And I couldn't have been more proud to see him cross the 20 mile finish line with my daughter by his side.  I was wishing I could be riding along with everyone, even if just for a few miles.  I'm not fooling myself into thinking that I might be able to keep up with the "big boys and girls" but I'd be thrilled to feel up to doing ten miles or so.  I'm already able to handle six miles, even though I just started this little campaign on Sunday.  Those six miles were on relatively flat terrain, nothing like the mountain roads that make up The Prouty route.  Still, not bad for a 62-year-old gal who has not exactly been busy focusing on physical fitness!  And who hasn't been on a bike for about 25 years!

Please keep sending me positive thoughts, love and good wishes.  And while I'm not a religious person, I'll gladly accept your prayers, too! 

And most of all, if you are inclined to make a donation to some organization on my behalf or on behalf of a friend or family member fighting cancer, consider donating to an organization focused on research rather than awareness.  Because in my opinion, that's what this race needs.


  1. Wouldn't it be wonderful if scientists could find the answers to cure cancer once and for all! I pray this happens and in the meantime, keep enjoying your life as you have been all during this battle. If anyone can win this war, it's you.


  2. Just so you know, Michelle, I was talking to one of my good friends, and her daughter is working on(with research) a cure for breast cancer. She's just getting her PHD. She talks about how we "all" have these breast cancer cells in our body, and how much stress plays into this explosion of cancer cells. I think you're doing all the right things, having fun, bike riding, enjoying daily outings, being with family, traveling, cooking food you like, eating out, being with your friends. I know I did the right thing in retiring when I did when the stress kept climbing higher and higher.

    You are doing all the right stuff!


  3. Loved reading your blog Michelle. Hope we meet one day when I am up in Stoneham and you have some spare time and we can lunch together!