Friday, June 17, 2011


Have I got your attention? Good.

Our dear friend Kirstin is entering hospice (age 40). BP's friend T. has had a recurrence of pancreatic cancer and his family arranged a Mass at his home... his daughter just married, he would like to see his first grand child and he likely won't. This shit STINKS, all right?

Now, in a previous era, we didn't see much cancer. We died of infectious disease, heart disease, and the like. Cancer is a disease of age. The more we challenge our bodies with age, the more damage accumulates. That sounds reasonable except that Kirstin and T. aren't that old. So there's just random stuff happening.

Ironically, we are surviving cancer more. Childhood leukemias are in many cases curable. Drugs for chronic myelogenous leukemia are miracle drugs. We're more able to determine which treatment will work for which form of cancer for which person.

But amazing people like K. and T. are still facing death. Okay, folks, you need to get active here.


The first step is to help your friends. Don't shy away--they may need help with meals, with rides to the clinic, with time away for the primary caregiver while you stay with the patient. Don't wait for them: offer a meal, offer to weed the garden, take someone to the store... be proactive. Be there, okay?

Next, support organizations that support cancer patients. I highly recommend the American Cancer Society, which uses its budget for patient support AND basic and clinical research. ACS funds scientists in the early stage of their careers, but historically, ACS funded scientists become the most prominent we have. Support ACS! They put their money into the programs that serve people and create knowledge. They are a dedicated group and I totally vouch for them.

The third step is Your Government. Yeah, it's popular to criticize, but any European will tell you that they envy our NIH. That's the National Institutes of Health, which is the engine of biomedical research in this country.

(A) for patients: the National Cancer Institute can connect you to treatment and trials.

(B) But there's also research--done by the multiple institutes of the NIH, ranging from the disease specific like NCI, to the very basic General Medical Sciences. Most biomedical research in the US is funded by NIH. This is a government agency, part of the dept of Health and Human Services. Drug companies will fund work on things that they know will lead to a product. NIH funds the studies to figure out what works--basic research, which establishes the foundation for tomorrow's cures, and applied research, which puts today's knowledge in the clinic. In the current government funding climate, NIH is taking it hard. THis not only affects our current research, but drives the bright young people out of the field. WRITE YOUR CONGRESSPEOPLE and tell them to protect the NIH and support basic AND clinical research. No one gets fat on this work, but they lay the foundations. Your support to your Congresspeople WILL make a difference--if you care, they will care.

Let's work together and celebrate K and T and make a difference to us and to the K's and T's who come after. We CAN beat this shit.


Oh, yeah. Obligatory disclaimer. Your blog-host IT is a professor of genetics and a cancer researcher. I review grants for the NIH and the ACS. I have had grants from NIH and ACS (and the NSF, and the Leukemia Society). And if I were a modern Republican, I'd never have become a science professor....I'd have made a lot more money on Wall Street.

Added by Ann h/t to OCICBW

1 comment:

JCF said...

And do the common-sense stuff to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES: if you're like me, you probably need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise more. Don't short-change yourself on sleep. Smoking, nuff said (STOP!!!!!)

And, IF you can access health-care (God only knows too many of us can't), get your regular checks for cancer, for your bio-sex. [Says JCF, who just recently had a Breast Cancer scare---biopsy said negative, PTL!]

New info on sunscreen out (speaking of skin cancer): the magic words are "Broad Spectrum", to block UVA and UVB. Don't skimp on it---and stay in the shade when you can! [Lounging round the pool at my dad's housing complex, I still see "sun-worshippers", of all ages. Makes me {cringe}]

"Let's Be Careful Out There!"