Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Love of Christmas

I just realized that I have not posted anything to this blog in 10 days. Sorry about that. But the Christmas Holiday season has pulled me away from blogging to spend time with others.

I love the Christmas Holiday season. I love getting together with family and friends. And I am blessed that I have been able to do that. I loved stopping by a new neighbor to drop of a gift and staying for tea and cookies.  I loved going out to dinner with my cousins and having some fried zucchini flowers. They reminded me of my Aunt Dora who I miss so much. I loved seeing my brother-in-law and catching up on the latest news. I loved seeing so many beautifully decorated homes especially in the snow. I loved seeing my niece and her family. I feel my sister present when we play with my 2 year old great nephew.  I loved that my husband and I were able to spend time with my son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. My how JT has grown.

But the best part was celebrating the birth of Christ at Vigil Mass singing with my family - "Joy to the World"!

Every Day is a Blessing!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A pathway and chemo resistance

Continued research by Dr. Joanne Weidhaas  has resulted in  a recent journal article that further establishes the KRAS gene mutation as a predictor of poor outcomes and chemotherapy resistance for women with epithelial ovarian cancer. 

Let's step back a bit. 
The KRAS gene  is the "v-KI-ras2 Kirsten rate sarcoma viral oncogene homolog". So glad they use the KRAS abbreviation. It is also know as an oncogene because a change in its makeup can cause a cell to become cancerous.

The KRAS gene produces the KRAS protein which controls cell division. It is a  part of the signaling pathway RAS/MAPK . The protein signals whether or not the nucleus should divide or not.The KRAS protein acts like an on off switch . It is turned on when it binds with the molecule GTP. When it converts GTP to GDP  it is turned to an  off position . 

In the article
 "KRAS variant is a biomarker of poor outcome, platinum chemotherapy resistance and a potential target for therapy in ovarian cancer
The authors found that post menopausal women with the Epithelial Ovarian Cancer and this gene mutation were more likely to be platinum resistant and to die from the disease. This information  certainly opens the door to developing new treatment options for women with the mutation.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Sources :Genetics Home Reference a service of the US National Library of Medicine

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Friendship Ended Too Soon

At 8:30 am this morning I got a phone call from my friend's niece. She called to tell me that my friend had passed. It has taken me all day to be able to write yet another post about a woman and friend from my support group who lost her life to cancer.

Pam was a special lady. She was good friend. We met at the very first meeting of the Gynecologic Cancer Support Group at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ)  back in 2007. We hit it off right away.  We were diagnosed less than a year apart with stage III ovarian cancer.

She loved to travel and so did I. In 2009, we both went on cruises to Alaska. When she came back she gave me tips on what to bring. It seems that going on a trip after treatment cycles was our pattern.

She loved Jimmy Buffet and would travel all over to go to a concert. She was a member of the Parrot Heads. Pam and the group put together a fundraiser ( I think it was 2008) and the money went to CINJ.She held another fundraiser at Leggett's and that is when I got to meet so many more of her family.
Parrot Head fundraiser- Pam, me, Julie, Ann

We got together at the  Ovarian Cancer Survivors Course in New York City at NYU. This time our husbands came along and they got to meet each other. Nick and Ed would attend many ovarian cancer events with us especially if they knew the other was going.

We both attended the CINJ Foundation dinner to honor our gynecologic oncologist, Dr Darlene Gibbon.
CINJ Foundation Dinner with Rita Kay(left) and Pam(right)

When I attended conferences Pam would always ask me what treatments were in the works for us. Then we would both lament how long it took to get the treatment from clinical trials to patients. Both Pam and I took part in clinical trials. If only more women like Pam took part in clinical trials researchers would get the answers to the many questions they have about cancer.

Pam was always ready to help the women in our group especially with computer issues.She was our resident techie. She helped a few woman learn software and fixed internet and software issues.

We also served on the Patient Advisory Board of CINJ together. Once again Pam was ready to help in any way she could. Pam was a real driving force behind the LiveSTRONG Survivor's Day quilt that now hangs in the lobby of CINJ. She showed up at one of our meetings with a bag of quilt squares and fabric and the ball got rolling.

Pam and I attended many of the same ovarian cancer awareness events over the last few years-  the Kaleidoscope of Hope Avon Walk and the Teal Tea Foundation's Tea every May.
Teal Tea 2011
During the past year when Pam was in treatment I would frequently pick her up at CINJ at 5pm on the second Tuesday of the month.  Off we would head to Panera's on Rt 1 or up  Easton Avenue to the chinese restaurant. Sure we talked about check-ups and treatments but that wasn't all. Over the years we became more than just two women with ovarian cancer. We became friends. We got together to chat about what was happening in our lives. We talked about our husbands and families. We shared stories about places we traveled to. I remember how excited she was when my grandson was born. Then we would head back to CINJ for our monthly group meeting.

I imagined that we would have many more years of friendship but that is not to be. But my memories of this friendship will last forever.

Rest In Peace Pam.

Every Day is a Blessing. And Pam was a blessing in my life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ovarian Cancer on ESPN-W

I follow a number of ovarian cancer organizations on Facebook and Twitter. The other day I read a tweet that referred to an article on a site called ESPN-W , an ESPN website for women who love sports. ( I love crew and college football.) What a great way to reach women and raise awareness of ovarian cancer. The title of the article was "Ovarian Cancer an Under the Radar Killer"by Melissa Isaacson. Thank you Melissa for taking the time to highlight ovarian cancer (OC) on this site.

Overall the article did a good job sharing the story of Roni Lemos, describing the symptoms of the disease, reporting the statistics and stressing that women should advocate for themselves when it comes to their health. There are two parts though I want to comment on.

There was a quote made by an NOCC representative- "It's a very sad, sad cancer ". Sure ovarian cancer is sad - for women diagnosed and those who care for them. It is sad for those in treatment and sad when women lose their lives because of ovarian cancer. But honestly,  all cancers are sad.  And I say that as someone who has dealt with OC and someone who also has had family and friends who were treated or lost their lives to cancer - breast, kidney, brain, liver, testicular, cervical, & prostate.

"It is also an unpopular disease as far as funding goes,...  " Over the past 7 + years I don't think I ever heard ovarian cancer described as unpopular before.  Is any cancer popular? I assume we can say that breast cancer is popular since in 2011 it received ~ $600 million more funding for research than ovarian cancer.  And yes, we should increase OC research funding. I would have liked to have the author provide reasons why more research funding for ovarian cancer is crucial.  Funds for OC research could help develop a screening test, gain a better understanding of the paths to developing the disease, to develop more personalized treatment plans, to use the Human Genome project data to develop new treatment options and to develop treatments for women who are battling recurrent disease.

There are reasons why breast cancer gets more research dollars. More women are affected each year by breast cancer than ovarian cancer.  And national breast cancer organizations have been raising awareness of the disease and funds for research for a much longer period of time than there have been organizations raising funds for ovarian cancer research. The author did note that breast cancer research can translate to other cancers.

This article was a good place to start the conversation about ovarian cancer among women on this site. I hope the author will follow up with additional information like risk factors and BRCA mutations for her readers.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

OVA1 Research Results

OVA1 test by Vermillion is a blood test that evaluates whether an ovarian mass is cancerous prior to surgery. OVA1 is FDA approved for that purpose. CA-125 is one of the five biomarkers used in the OVA1 test. The other markers are Beta-2 microglobulin, apoliprprotein A-1, prealbumin, and transferrin. The test results are evaluated using a proprietary algorithm to produce a result.  The resulting number is between 0-10.

Recently a study of OVA1 was published in the Journal Gynecologic Oncology .

Ovarian malignancy risk stratification of the adnexal mass using a multivariate index assay

The study included 494 patients from multiple centers. Blood samples (taken prior to surgery) and physicians risk assessments were correlated with surgical pathology reports.
Ova1 correctly predicted ovarian cancer 91% of the cases of early stage cancer vs 65.7% using CA-125 alone. The OVA1 test was also better at  predicting the absence of disease with a negative predicitive vale of 98.1%.

The study concluded that the OVA1 - 5 marker test "demonstrated higher sensitivity and negative predictive value for ovarian malignancy compared to clinical impression and CA125-II in an intended-use population of non-gynecologic oncology practices."

It is a very interesting study.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Metformin and Ovarian Cancer

A article titled " Metformin intake is associated with better survival in ovarian cancer" was published today in the journal Cancer . Metformin is a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. The research was done at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

This retrospective study showed that women with epithelial ovarian cancer who were taking Metformin had significantly better survival compared to women with epithelial ovarian cancer who were not taking Metformin.  The 5 year disease specific survival for cases vs control was 67% vs 47%.

The conclusion was"The results of this study indicated an association of metformin intake with survival in patients with ovarian cancer. The receipt of metformin was associated with better survival, and the authors concluded that metformin is worthy of clinical trials in ovarian cancer. Cancer 2012. © 2012 American Cancer Society."

This is an interesting line of research and I look forward to seeing the results of future prospective clinical trials.  Source :
Metformin information:

Every day is a Blessing!