Monday, August 24, 2015

Brain Cancer, Melanoma & U.S. President Jimmy Carter

I found this article by Kathleen Foody in Friday’s Chicago Tribune disturbing on a number of levels -
The disturbing part is easy, ex-US President Jimmy Carter reported in a news conference late last week that “…doctors had removed melanoma from his liver, but found four small tumors in his brain. Later Thursday, he received radiation treatment. He also began receiving injections of a newly approved drug to help his immune system seek out and destroy the cancer cells wherever else they may appear.”

Bleakly, the cancer color for melanoma is black which, to my way of thinking, tells you all you need to know.

In fact, everything I know about melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is bad. I know that melanoma has killed a cousin of mine, and that it has tried to kill both me and another cousin. We’re the lucky ones because unless it’s caught early, melanoma can all too easily become a quick one-way trip to the grave.

An article I read on reported that, “The incidence of melanoma is on the rise and although melanoma currently accounts for only 4% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for 80% of all skin cancer deaths. Worldwide, the incidence of melanoma is roughly 200,000, leading to approximately 46,000 deaths. Compared with primary lung, breast, renal or colorectal cancer, melanoma has the highest propensity to metastasize to the brain: over one-third of patients with metastatic melanoma will eventually develop a clinically apparent brain metastasis.” Here’s a link to the article:

According to the article, “His treatment regimen will include four injections of pembrolizumab, which was approved by the FDA for melanoma patients last year, at three-week intervals.”

If you, like me, couldn’t spell "pembrolizumab," let alone know what it is or does, here’s a link to a very recent article from The New England Journal of Medicine  which seems to indicate that the drug pembrolizumab is the current best weapon we have for fighting melanoma, wherever it is in the body:

PS - I added the italic to the Medscape quote to emphasize the deadliness of the disease.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Treatment for (some) Medulloblastoma tumors

Here’s some good news I just read on, “A targeted therapy already used to treat advanced skin cancer is also effective against the most common subtype of the brain tumor medulloblastoma in adults and should be considered for treatment of newly diagnosed patients, according to research led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.” Here’s a link to the article:
To be clear, in case you aren’t a regular reader of my blog, I hate brain tumors, and I especially hate brain tumors that attack children. Unfortunately, that’s just what medulloblastoma does. According to the article, “Medulloblastoma develops in the cerebellum at the base of the skull and involves four different subtypes, each with different genetic alterations. The tumor is diagnosed in as many as 400 children and adolescents annually in the U.S., making it the most common malignant pediatric brain tumor. (I added the bold type)

I hate that. Some poor child who hasn’t done anything to anybody gets whacked with a sinister, deadly, uncaring malignant brain tumor. Every time I read about these my heart goes out to the kids, their parents, their family and friends.

As usual with brain tumors, the treatment is not a blanket cure for all afflicted as the research team reports that “"While it was disappointing that not all medulloblastoma patients with the SHH subtype will benefit, for the right patients these results mark the beginning of a new era of targeted therapy for treatment of this tumor," said first and corresponding author Giles Robinson, M.D., an assistant member of the St. Jude Department of Oncology. ”The findings also highlight the importance of ongoing research to identify the genetic alterations that define who the right patients are and help identify those most likely to benefit from this drug as well as those for whom different therapy is needed.”

Right about now you might be asking yourself the question “What is the “SHH subtype?” or some other important and related question. 

If you’ve read any of my other postings, you will know that I haven’t a clue. But if you are a scientist or doctor of have taken a lot of medical coursework, here’s a link to the journal abstract in the Journal of Clinical Oncology which explains the :

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cell Phones, Brain Tumors & Worrying

I am convinced that making a ton of phone calls with your cell phone glued to your ear is a bad idea; a horrible idea; a potentially brain tumor-causing idea.

This video by Dr. Thornton just confirms my fears by explaining that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones has been implicated in causing some kinds of brain tumors:

Now that I’m especially paranoid, what do I do? Throw my cell phone in the trash can? Luckily, Dr. Miller had this some practical advice for me on the same website:

Havening watched that, I zipped over to the National Cancer Institute site on the NIH website for their POV. Their information was cautiously uncommitted; which is another way of saying that they believe there should be a link/association/relation but nobody’s found it yet. You can read their comments here:
Having read and written all that, I’m still worried about my kids who seem to have their cell phones grafted onto their ears.