Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Statistics Don't Lie

Last week I attended a professional briefing and was struck by a fact included in the speaker’s presentation. By 2013, cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States. I don’t know why I was startled. The American Cancer Society reported 1.5 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2010. Most weeks I hear about cancer affecting someone I know; just this month, several people have asked me about the pancreatic center at Johns Hopkins.

It’s no surprise then, that so many women responding to the recent Woman’s Journey survey of health interests identified Strategies to Prevent Cancer as their top choice. So, in response to the survey outcomes, the annual Johns Hopkins women’s health conference November 12, 2011 will include four sessions related to cancer:

• Advanced in Diagnosing Breast Cancer
• Ten Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
• What You Eat Can Save Your Life
• Changing the Outcomes for Pancreatic Cancer

Johns Hopkins faculty speakers also will focus on dozens of other topics, but from my perspective, I will be sure I learn about cancer prevention. For myself and my family I want to do everything possible to reduce the likelihood of having cancer as well as know about advances in diagnoses and treatments. Perhaps after hearing about the projected rate of cancer, you will too.

Be Well,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Chance to Expand Your Vocabulary

“Personalized medicine” is a phrase we are going to hear a lot more about in the future.

Recently I have attended meetings or picked up articles about “personalized medicine.” It seems like many people are beginning to use the term in different contexts. Some use the term to refer to high-end concierge medical practices in which a patient pays a primary care physician an annual “membership” fee. But, the term conveys far more power and has implications for many of us.

Last year I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Bill Nelson, Professor and Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He explained that “within the next few years, all cancer patients at the Kimmel Cancer Center will have their tumors analyzed to reveal a unique “fingerprint.” The fingerprint represents the combination of genetic alterations specific to each person’s cancer. Just as every person is genetically unique, so is every cancer. Targeting these alterations, say scientists, will improve treatment outcomes, thwart cancers before they develop, and slash the costs of new drug discovery.”

The new edition of the Hopkins publication, Promise and Progress, describes how The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center is translating laboratory discoveries into remarkable new therapies that target the unique cellular characteristics of each patient’s cancer. [ http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/publications/promise_progress/the_time_is_now_2010_2011_/personalized_medicine_is_here_the_time_is_now].

Personalized medicine may sound like a simple concept, but the science behind it may change the course of cancer treatment. Like me, you may want to add the phrase to your lexicon.