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Information is Power!

Sad story offers hope for late stage cancer patients

February 28, 2015 Pat Killingsworth No Comments

The New York Times continues to be the best and brightest remaining light for good national journalism.  I can’t speak to your politics; I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the medical writing.  I don’t see that as political.

Check out this excerpt from an article about another attempt to get experimental drugs to those of us that need them faster:

A Faster Way to Try Many Drugs on Many Cancers

New York Times – Gina Kolata – February 25, 2015

Chemotherapy and radiation failed to thwart Erika Hurwitz’s rare cancer of white blood cells. So her doctors offered her another option, a drug for melanoma. The result was astonishing.

ERICA NYTWithin four weeks, a red rash covering her body, so painful she had required a narcotic patch and the painkiller OxyContin, had vanished. Her cancer was undetectable.

“It has been a miracle drug,” said Mrs. Hurwitz, 78, of Westchester County.

She is part of a new national effort to try to treat cancer based not on what organ it started in, but on what mutations drive its growth.

Cancers often tend to be fueled by changes in genes, or mutations, that make cells grow and spread to other parts of the body. There are now an increasing number of drugs that block mutations in cancer genes and can halt a tumor’s growth.

While such an approach has worked in a few isolated cases, those cases cannot reveal whether other patients with the same mutation would have a similar experience.

Now, medical facilities like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where Mrs. Hurwitz is a patient, are starting coordinated efforts to find answers. And this spring, a federally funded national program will start to screen tumors in thousands of patients to see which might be attacked by any of at least a dozen new drugs. Those whose tumors have mutations that can be attacked will be given the drugs.

The studies of this new method, called basket studies because they lump together different kinds of cancer, are revolutionary, much smaller than the usual studies, and without control groups of patients who for comparison’s sake receive standard treatment.

Researchers and drug companies asked the Food and Drug Administration for its opinion, realizing that if the F.D.A. did not accept the studies, no drugs would ever be approved on the basis of them. But the F.D.A. said it sanctioned them and could approve drugs with basket study data alone…

Here’s a link so you can read the second half of the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/health/fast-track-attacks-on-cancer-accelerate-hopes.html?src=xps&_r=0

Another example of how the FDA is trying to help speed up delivery of experimental drugs to late stage patients.

We always hear about the bad things: understaffed, budget cuts, red tape.  Seems to me the FDA is listening.  Tough line between getting these drugs to desperate patients early vs safety for others.  For once its good to see them erring on the side of cancer patients.

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat

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Chemotherapy, FDA, melanoma Controversial Topics

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