Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chicago Here I Come - ASCO 2016

I'm excited to once again be heading to the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting at McCormick Place,  Chicago from June 3rd to the 7th. This year's theme is Collective Wisdom - The Future of Patient-Centered Care and Research.  Thank you Conquer Cancer Foundation for supporting my attendance. I learned this morning that VP Joe Biden will be speaking to the attendees on Monday afternoon and I look forward to hearing him.

I've been using the ASCO Annual Meeting iPlanner the past few day to pick out the sessions I want to attend. There are education sessions, clinical science symposiums, oral abstract sessions, poster sessions and poster discussion sessions. With so many topics to choose from I had to narrow my search field to sessions on gynecologic cancers, survivorship and cancer prevention. With over 30,000 people expected to attend and the top researchers in the world presenting, it almost guarantees that there will be overlapping sessions where I will have to pick one.  Here is just a small sample of some of the education sessions I'll attend:

But there is more to the ASCO meeting than just attending presentations and looking at posters. My favorite part is making connections. I can connect with other advocates at the Research Advocacy Network dinner, meeting "twiends"at the #ASCO16 TweetUp and meet researchers in the Oncology Professional's Hall and at the ASCO President's Dinner.

Advocates are provided a special advocates lounge area- a great place to catch up with others, hear exciting news about ASCO and FDA programs, have a snack and relax. It is such a welcome area between sessions.

I'll be tweeting live from the meeting using the #ASCO16 and #gyncsm has tags. So follow me on twitter at @womenofteal and I'll share the latest research news with you. 

Every Day is a Blessing!

Friday, May 27, 2016

NJ Cancer Research

Every year there is an Annual Retreat on Cancer Research in New Jersey. This year's Retreat was held at the Student Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. The Retreat brings together researchers from across the state to share their study results and also includes a Public Forum portion,  focus sessions and a poster session. I'll give a short review on the Public Forum, the Keynote Speech and 3 posters related to ovarian cancer.

This year the Public Forum theme was Cancer Survivors:Advancing Care through Research.
 Public Forum. The Keynote Lecture for the Public Forum was given by Alred Neugut MD ,PhD, Columbia University . He spoke on research related to screening tests and public health issues, emphasizing the need for guidelines for tests,colonoscopy and mammography in particular,  being based on good data.

Dr Sharon Manne spoke on Couple-Focused Group Therapy for Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Spousal support is the most important support a women diagnosed with breast cancer can have. Support groups are also very important but outcomes depend on the moderator. In a trial of Couple Enhanced Support Groups ( education and topic driven) vs regular support group  the participants in the support group reported less distress than those in the Enhanced Support Group.

Dr Shawna Hudson spoke on Prostate Cancer Follow-Up:Promoting Self-Care After Cancer Treatment Ends. In one study when asked when follow-up care should be provided by the primary care physician(PCP),  prostate cancer survivors responded that a return to the PCP should be later in the timeline. There is a  new NCSRC Primary Care Toolkit for breast /prostate /colon cancer .

Dr Brian Gonzalez spoke on A Vision For Personalized Care in Cancer Survivorship with a focus on the cognitive function and hot flashes in prostate cancer and the use of androgen deprivation treatment. He found that those men with a GG allele showed a worsening of their cognitive function and an increase in hot flashes when using ADT.

 Keynote Speaker - Jeffrey Engelman, MD,PhD  Harvard Medical School

Dr Engleman's talk Evolution of Resistance to Targeted Therapies focused on lung cancer - specifically those with EGFR mutations and ALK translocations. Most cancers do not have a single target. Recurrence will occur if 1) pathways are reactivated 2)the target is amplified or 3) lineage changes occur. Research on early vs late T790M mutation development showed that cells with late T790M showed the same expression profile as drug tolerant cells.


Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Ovarian Cancer Treatment and Survival - E. Bandera
(800 women diagnosed with OC  between 2000-2013)
"African-American(AA)  women were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease ( 26%), to have hypertension (73.9%) and renal disease ( 50%),  not have surgery and have an elevated post-treatment CA-125. Both AA and Hispanic women had high prevalence of obesity.
...  Our study shows that disparities in OC treatment and survival in AA persisted in a setting of equal access to care and after taking into account treatment and other clinical characteristics."

Dietary Quality and Ovarian Cancer Risk in African-American(AA)  Women - K.Pawlish
(415 OC cases and 629 age/site controls of AA decent evaluated three indexed-based dietary patterns. "Adherence to an overall healthy dietary pattern may reduce ovarian cancer risk in AA women, particularly among postmenopausal AA women"   

Identifying Gene/Protein Expression and Single -Nucleotide Polymorhism profiles (SNP ) in Tumor Samples Isolated from Patients with Ovarian Cancer - J.Sapiezynski
"A strong positive correlation between the resistance of cells and expression level of MDR1 gene was revealed. A strong correlation between resistance and the BCL2 gene was found in cells with the wild type of TOP2A genotype."

I am so pleased to see many different research groups working together on these important projects.

Every Day is a Blessing! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mixed Emotions

Sometimes I find myself so deep in my advocacy work and spending time with family ( my son and his wife visited for a few days)  that I don't have time to write blog posts. I apologize to my readers. 

This past weekend, I attended events for two ovarian cancer organizations. The Teal Tea Foundation (TT) held their 10th Anniversary Gala on Saturday.  And the Kaleidoscope of Hope (KOH) Foundation  held their Annual Awards Luncheon on Saturday. Both NJ based foundations raise funds for ovarian cancer research and awareness.

But in the post will not be writing about the wonderful work these foundations do each and every year.  Rather, I want to share how I felt as one of the survivors in the room.

When I arrive at each one, I am proud. Proud to be involved in organizations that are making a difference.  I am hopeful. Hopeful for the future as I listen to the researchers talk about their work.  Yet, I am sad. So sad that I at times I have to hold back tears. 

Why? You're healthy you say. You should feel good. Yes,  that is true but surviving without your friends by your side is difficult at times.

My friends, three in particular, whose lives were lost due to a gynecologic cancer, were missing from these events - Anne, Shari and Carole. But do you know who was there? Their husbands - Don, Dave and Bob.

I watched the faces of these supportive caregivers as their wives were honored and again as they watched survivors receive a special gift. I glance at my husband who had that look - knowing that he was thinking how it might have been him. 

Don't get me wrong it was wonderful to see Don, Dave and Bob. They knew me during those "no Hair Days". But I got well and their wives did not. So in a way the relationship changed.

It is hard to describe the nervousness and funny feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I first see these men.  Sometimes I worry about what I will say. Do I remind them of a time filled with pain? I'm not sure what I am feeling - survivors guilt maybe?

I haven't seen Don since last year's TT event. We reminisced over the times he brought Anne to support group because she wasn't well enough to drive herself. He told me how he loved hearing all of us laugh at those meetings as he sat in a nearby lounge. That funny feeling started to go away.  Don smiled as I told him about the heron who regularly visits the pond behind my home. Anne loved herons and asked that we think of her when we see one. I think of her a lot. 

It took me until the last 15 minutes of the TT Gala to walk up to Dave. Shari passed away July, 2014. Like Don, the last time  I saw him was last year's TT event.  I walked up to him and said, " I was friends with... " he stopped me mid-sentence and said "Sure I know who you are. Dee, how are you doing?"  and I got big hug and the funny feeling went away. We talked about our families and he repeated more than once how strongly he feels that supporting research is the only way we can make a difference in the lives of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I totally agree. Together we are focused on finding a cure.

I've seen Bob a number of times since Carole passed away in February. We both now serve on the Board of KOH. One of the reasons I returned to the Board of KOH was because of Carole and her dream of finding a detection test and a cure. I am happy that I will be working with Bob because we are on the same page when it comes to the importance of research . Seeing him more frequently  keeps the funny tummy feeling from kicking into high gear. 

At events like these two I especially feel the loss of these women but I am glad that I have the chance to see their husbands and families, even if it means I feel such mixed emotions.

I know there are bereavement groups but does anyone know of a group / organization the reaches out to the countless partners, spouses and family members whose loved ones lives were taken by ovarian cancer?

Every Day is a Blessing! Blessed to know that Teal Tea and Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundations are focusing their efforts on research.