Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Around the Web

To all of my friends and family who've stepped in the last couple of weeks, the last few years to help me out and entertain my son and feed our family (sometimes all three things at once), I'm not sure I say it often enough: from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are exactly why our family has been able to make this chemo thing work while also raising a baby/toddler/preschooler and having a spouse who routinely travels for weeks at a time for work.

Yesterday was a chemo day for me, but also a holiday, which meant Quinn's school was closed. And it's one of those times that Chris is out of town while I need my infusion. I didn't exactly know how I was going to pull it off, and came close to rescheduling my appointment til later in the week. But it turns out I just had to ask. My friend Julee could step in to take Quinn for a few hours. "No problem!" she said. Quinn could play with her son, one of Quinn's best friends, while I went to my infusion center and received treatment.

Then, in the afternoon, Quinn's friend Sydney's dad brought her over for a playdate that relieved me of my obligation to sit hunched over on our hardwood floor, crashing cars with my boy. They even brought popsicles! Sorry, rest of the country where you currently feel like a popsicle.

Thank you, friends, for keeping me afloat.

Again, I've been a little remiss in posting this little series, but that's what single parenting has done to me. But hey, our laundry is folded and our teeth are brushed and I even sent my manuscript to my agent last week. So some things are getting accomplished.

To Wit: The FDA Approves Another Treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer

"The drug’s efficacy was demonstrated in 165 postmenopausal women with ER-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer who had not received previous treatment for advanced disease. Clinical study participants were randomly assigned to receive Ibrance in combination with letrozole or letrozole alone. Participants treated with Ibrance plus letrozole lived about 20.2 months without their disease progressing (progression-free survival), compared to about 10.2 months seen in participants receiving only letrozole. Information on overall survival is not available at this time."

And the Mayo Clinic is Planning Trials on a Vaccine for Triple Negative B.C.

Oh, how my fingers are crossed on this one.

"Donna Deegan, a WTLV- and WJXX-TV news anchor, is a three-time breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with the cancer at age 38.

"For women with triple negative breast cancer, if this works, it could be a game changer," Deegan said.

Perez said that in the past, she was not optimistic about the chances for success of a breast cancer vaccine. However, that has now changed."

Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer

"But scientists recently discovered that cancer takes a page from Harry Potter: It puts on a kind of invisibility cloak.

"Cancer can keep the immune system from recognizing that it's bad and keep it from attacking itself," Brahmer says.

Now scientists have found a way around this.

"The breakthrough is in therapies called 'checkpoint inhibitors,' " Brahmer says."

"A new device that delivers cancer drugs directly into tumors without relying on perfusion via the bloodstream, could increase life expectancy for patients with pancreatic, breast and other solid cancers, say researchers."

3D Printed 'Phantom' Tumors Could Help Deliver Radiation More Precisely

"Scientists in London are using 3D printed replicas of tumors and organs, called 'phantoms', to show how drugs will pass through tumors and give them a better understanding of how that will be replicated in individual patients."

Certain Her-2+ Tumors May Only Need Chemotherapy (sans Herceptin)

"A study suggests that HER2-positive breast cancer tumors with high levels of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes had a lower risk of the cancer coming back (recurrence) when treated with chemotherapy alone compared to HER-positive tumors with low levels of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes treated with only chemotherapy.

This means that HER2-positive breast cancers with high levels of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes might be able to be treated with chemotherapy alone and avoid Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab)."

I had ZERO side effects from Herceptin, so I was happy to take the kitchen sink approach. But I know what a pain it is to continue on infusions for a year (or longer for those with metastatic disease). Would you skip Herceptin if you could?

A Promising Drug Target for Certain Breast and Ovarian Cancers

"The Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of the drug olaparib for ovarian cancer patients with inherited mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 came as welcome news to the thousands of women now eligible to receive it. A new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists indicates that the pool of patients who can benefit from the drug is potentially much wider -- and offers a ready means of identifying them.

The study, published in the journal Nature, found that an enzyme called polymerase q (or POLQ) is the active agent in the protein "pathway" that olaparib targets within tumor cells. The finding suggests that breast and ovarian cancer patients whose tumor cells carry abnormally high levels of POLQ are likely to respond to the drug -- and that POLQ itself is an inviting target for future therapies."

Lastly, This is Making the Rounds in My Circles: Would You Try It?

One naturopath's take: "Although it is clearly uncomfortable not eating for a total of 72 hours, the research is indicating that this is a worthwhile sacrifice. The discomfort from hunger will actually decrease the severity of the side effects from the chemotherapy. It is also important to keep in mind that this starvation state is triggering a powerful metabolic shift in your cells that protects your cells while making the cancer cells more vulnerable to the chemotherapy."

I am fairly strong-willed, but I don't think I could voluntarily go without food for three days. What about you? Would you try this? Have you? Or is this guy a total coconut?


  1. I am thinking he may be a coconut. Eating small amounts regularly helps with my nausea I swear. Plus pain meds on empty tummy is no bueno!

    When I was at MD Anderson this week they mentioned they also had a study for a vaccine for triple negative also (maybe same one?).

    1. Such exciting things happening! And I agree, eating small amounts regularly is the best way I've found to combat chemo nausea. That, and healthy amounts of Zofran.