Archives For Research

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In March, like millions of people, I sat enrapt watching the three-night premier of the documentary by Ken Burns, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.” As you know cancer is very personal to me. I have “battled” and “survived” the diagnoses of multiple tumors for more than twenty years. I am not a doctor or scientist but a “career” cancer patient. I have had different bilateral breast cancers, pancreatic Continue Reading…

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The Ken Burns Event

Just like many millions of people, I spent the past three nights watching Ken Burns’ Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. This has been something I have been very excited about, have talked about, blogged about, posted, and tweeted since I learned that the Pulitzer-prize winning book by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee was going to be made into a documentary.

My impressions:

First of all, in my history and devotion to PBS, I have never seen as many sponsors listed before the Continue Reading…

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Then

As most of you know, my daughter had another tumor removed last July. This was her second occurrence of leiomyosarcoma. She had a liver resection. Two institutions opined that it could not be determined if it was a new primary tumor or Stage IV as the cells of leiomyosarcoma were exactly the same. She was 6 months shy of her 5-year anniversary.

As a parent, at first I was first in warrior mode, then caregiver mode and then when the dust had settled became completely distraught. I have complex PTSD and this event was a trauma trigger on the magnitude of an 8.0 earthquake collapsing the entire house. I went into the usual grieving over whether she would live or die. I had to wrestle with Can I stand by and watch my daughter die from this? Would I rather be dead? Even after all I had been through, fighting to live, living through my first husband’s death, could I do this again? I asked myself these questions and more. Continue Reading…

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As many of you know I have a genetic defect called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome.

Per ‘’Medscape” Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is a rare autosomal dominant syndrome in which patients are predisposed to cancer. Li-Fraumeni syndrome is characterized by the wide variety of cancer types seen in affected individuals, a young age at onset of malignancies, and the potential for multiple primary sites of cancer during the lifetime of affected individuals.

(see http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/987356-overview)

This past year a group of friends that also are affected by LFS started a non-profit called LivingLFS.org. All of us ‘met’ in a ‘closed’ Facebook support group and then in person last year. It Continue Reading…

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On April 14, 2014, I was very excited when I heard the news that Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. That day, I tweeted to congratulate Mr. Fagin and I was excited when he tweeted his reply ‘Thanks’. I tweeted to my followers that this was another win for The Nation of Cancer. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee had just won the same award in 2012! Continue Reading…

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This week is the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR). My twitter news is all abuzz about what is going on at this meeting. For example, a new ‘Dream Team’ was announced for Pancreatic Cancer and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus – a causal factor in cervical cancer and now overtaking other causes as the most prevalent cause of head and neck cancer).

This is TED for cancer. Understanding and curing cancer is one of the greatest challenges in our lifetimes AND we are on a real-time cusp of understanding this complex puzzle.

I tell you this is where it is happening! This is the place to be! I want to go next year! Yeah, I know ‘what a ‘wonk’’. This is what it must have been like to work for NASA when we landed on the moon. My father worked on the lunar module when he worked at Grumman in the 1960’s and early 70s. He was part of that big thing – the moon shot. I must have inherited his ‘wonk’ gene. I’m fine with that. It is GREAT! Continue Reading…

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I just returned home from the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome conference held in Boston this past weekend. Besides the joy of getting together with friends that I know and love and meeting new people, I listened enrapt to the researchers who presented their updates on studying the DNA of humans and even elephants.

Did you know that elephants don’t get cancer? Apparently they have evolved to have 23 pairs of the p53 gene with is the major tumor suppressor of the genome. They have ‘super suppression’ of cancer. Their DNA takes care of what their immune system cannot. This phenomenon has given rise to “Peto’s Paradox’ and is similar in whales. The paradox is that much larger mammals, having many more cells that can mutate, would be expected to have even more incidence of cancer, yet they don’t. They also reproduce less frequently, which may have offered them some protection over the course of millennia. (Kind of makes you wonder if we will eventually become extinct from cancer and our rate of reproduction.)

(see: http://www.nature.com/news/massive-animals-may-hold-secrets-of-cancer-suppression-1.12258)

Dr. Josh Schiffman of the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City Utah, who spoke at the conference, is studying the DNA of Asian elephants, and specifically this abundance of p53. He is asking the question: how this may help in correcting the mutated genes and the possibilities for cancer prevention in humans. As a wonk, nerd or whatever, I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations on retrogenes, theories on chromothripsis (see: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v470/n7335/fig_tab/470476a_F1.html), telomeres and another new term, ‘sonic hedge hog’ mutations. Continue Reading…