At MD Anderson, we're constantly looking for innovative new
ways to provide the best possible cancer treatment options for our patients as
we work toward our mission of Making Cancer History®. To help with this, we've
enlisted a cognitive computing system powered by IBM Watson.
This technology, known as Oncology Expert Advisor™ (OEA),
will soon be used by our doctors and researchers as part of our Moon Shots Program, starting
with our fight against leukemia.
Ultimately, we hope to use the OEA in all of our clinics to help our patients
regardless of their cancer type.
By pulling together and analyzing vast amounts of
information from patient and research databases, the OEA is expected to help our
care teams identify and fine-tune the best possible cancer
treatments for our patients, while also alerting them to problems that arise
during a patient's care. The OEA is also expected to help our researchers
advance new discoveries in our fight against cancer.
We recently spoke with Courtney DiNardo, M.D., assistant
professor in Leukemia, who's been testing the OEA before it debuts in our leukemia
clinic. Here's what she had to say.
What are the benefits
of using the OEA to organize and collect data about
our patients? The OEA can extract patient information from various data sources and
synthesize all available medical records into a clear, concise and accurate
synopsis. It can analyze clinical information, medical history, as well as
leukemia-related information, such as specific genetic and molecular features,
and look at all available information in the context of published
evidence-based guidelines and available clinical
Over the last year, the Moon Shots Program provided a tremendous boost
to cancer research. My colleagues at MD Anderson and I have spent the last 12 months
collaborating to make significant advancements for our patients as well as those
patients not yet diagnosed.
Meaningful progress made in the
The Moon Shots Program became a reality after MD Anderson's president Ronald DePinho, M.D., issued a formidable challenge to our doctors and researchers: to develop a comprehensive action plan to significantly increase survival rates of cancer patients in the near-term and accelerate cures in the long-term.
cancer is the number one fastest rising cancer in women. Although it
accounts for about 1% of all cancers, it is becoming much more common. At least
450,000 people in the United States have completed treatment or are living with
About 75% of people diagnosed with thyroid
cancer are women. Why are women more likely than men to develop this disease?
aren't sure why more women develop thyroid cancer. All thyroid diseases are
more common in women than men.
But when it
comes to thyroid cancer, the difference of occurrences in gender disappears for
children who have not entered puberty and older adults. So, thyroid cancer may
be related to female hormones.
had the honor of participating in a tour of MD Anderson's campus and research
facilities. I learned about the many services available to patients.
I now know
that I did not fully utilize the services that were available to me when I was
a cervical cancer patient. The likely reason for that is simply geography. I
flew to MD Anderson for my chemo treatments and then home.
If I lived
closer, I would have participated in more of the programs that I learned about,
such as services offered by the Integrative
Medicine Center, which range from nutrition lectures to Pilates and yoga.
The patient services are endless. They also offer quiet rooms where you or your
caregiver can sleep, as well as a library where patients can research their
specific diagnoses. The goal seems to genuinely be to help the patient navigate
cancer with many tools in their arsenal.
Learning about cancer prevention at MD
read about the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Science in the most
recent issue of MD Anderson's Conquest
So, I was happy that our tour took us to the Cancer
Prevention Center, which includes the Behavioral
Research and Treatment Center. They are studying how certain behaviors have
an impact on cancer prevention and recurrence. I am most interested in the
research they are doing regarding exercise and its impact on cancer.
By nature, clinical
drug trials are something of a gamble. Since the drug itself is either
brand new or being used in a brand new way, there's no guarantee of the drug's
effectiveness or favorable results.
This is something that we cancer patients understand from
the start. In my case, the decision to participate in a clinical trial for
cancer treatment wasn't tough. It was my only remaining option. My chondrosarcoma,
a rare bone
cancer, was inoperable, so a clinical trial was my only cancer treatment
Here's what some people don't realize about clinical
trials: they can be stopped at any time for
many reasons. Maybe the drug just isn't working, or maybe the side effects are
too much of a burden. Or perhaps the drug company isn't seeing enough positive
results. That's why my first clinical trial ended. The drug company found that
the results from the actual drug wasn't yielding better results than the
Reasons to be hopeful
after changing clinical trials
I was actually relieved when that clinical trial ended. I'd actually been thinking
about withdrawing because the side effects were brutal and my tumors weren't
shrinking or stabilizing.
She had pain on the left side of her face -- the exact spot where she had a mass removed six years earlier -- and was scheduled for surgery.
A happy surprise "This time the tumor was all around my facial nerves," Gilmore says. "The surgery was going to be five to six hours for removal of the tumor and then another five to six hours for reconstructive surgery."
As Gilmore's husband and family waited, the anesthesiologist noticed her hormone levels were elevated.
"My mom had me on a lot of natural remedies, and I thought that was why," she says. "When the anesthesiologist came in and said I was pregnant, I was shocked."
Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice that connects other parents on this journey. Her series shares insight into her life as a mom of a typical teenager who just happens to be fighting leukemia.
Friday, Sept. 21, was a special day, as I was invited to two very different events.
MD Anderson hosted a press conference highlighting the new Moon Shots Program, boldly defining the next frontier of cancer research. Eight diseases (lung, melanoma, breast/ovarian, prostate and several blood cancers) have been sniper-targeted for eradication in the coming decade.
True to form, MD Anderson invited family and caregivers to meet with MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D., before the press conference and be awarded assigned seats. I'm not sure if I would be impressed meeting Lady Gaga, but I was gaga over meeting Dr. D.
By Ronald A. DePinho, M.D. Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., became president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in September 2011.
For MD Anderson Cancer Center, a place where hope abounds and an indomitable spirit is on constant display in our clinics and hallways, Sept. 21, 2012 marks a new chapter in our 71-year history.
Today we take another step -- make that a giant leap -- toward fulfilling our mission of Making Cancer History.
With this morning's launch of our Moon Shots Program, we set forth on a bold new course that will better enable us to convert scientific discoveries into clinical applications and to more quickly and directly benefit the patients who turn to us for help, for hope and for cure.
Inspired by President John Kennedy's historic speech here in Houston 50 years ago this month that both challenged and propelled America's space program to reach the moon within a decade, our Moon Shots Program is equally ambitious -- and achievable, aiming to significantly increase patient survival and reduce suffering over the next decade.
As part of my volunteer activities as a patient research advocate in MD Anderson's head and neck SPORE
(Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) program, I've observed
multiple patients going through the tumor tissue biopsy consent process.
These sessions were generally held a day or two before major
surgery, thus competing with the patients' already extreme stress,
strong emotions and very trying circumstances.
asking for the biopsy consent was well skilled in communicating with
each patient/caregiver the process of donating their cancer tumor tissue
for research purposes.
Yet, there were still questions, some explicit, others implicit, asked
by patients and caregivers in those consent sessions.
these interactions makes it clear to me that increased patient
awareness and information beforehand could make this an easier process
for the patient, clinician and doctor, ultimately improving the science
of curing cancer.
What you need to know At some point
during your cancer journey at MD Anderson (or at your own cancer center)
your doctor may ask for your consent, or permission, to use your tumor
tissue for research purposes. If you consent, you will be asked to sign a
form to that effect. There are three distinct purposes for evaluating a tumor sample:
In 2006, frustrated by the lack of research and treatment options for patients with ependymoma, Mark Gilbert, M.D., deputy chair of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at MD Anderson, proposed creating an international group to develop new treatments for this rare type of brain tumor.
Under Gilbert's guidance, the Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network (CERN) Foundation was established with the mission of developing new treatments for ependymoma, improving the outcomes and care of patients and, ultimately, finding a cure.
Today, the CERN Foundation is a dynamic, multi-institutional collaborative effort comprised of investigators from over 20 international cancer centers with leadership from MD Anderson (for adults) and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (for pediatrics).
The CERN initiative is built around the following interrelated projects: pathology, developmental therapeutics, stem cells and laboratory models, patient outcomes assessment, public awareness and outreach. These complimentary projects are all focused on supporting CERN's clinical trial efforts, which are currently accruing patients to three Phase II trials and one Phase I trial.
On April 19, 2012, the CERN Foundation was joined by patients, caregivers, advocates and health care professionals from around the world in celebrating the first Ependymoma Awareness Day. Ten governmental entities, including the City of Houston and the state of Texas, officially recognized April 19 as Ependymoma Awareness Day.
Hope takes flight The special day was commemorated with a mass butterfly release on the grounds of the Houstonian Hotel. Over 700 live butterflies were released to honor those affected by ependymoma and to support ependymoma research.
I have spent more than 30 years of my career trying to help cancer patients prevent or overcome sexual problems
related to treatment. Although we better understand the causes of those
problems, and have a few medical options to restore firm erections,
most men still don't get accurate information when they need it.
To try to solve this situation, my research team has been working with a small business grant from the National Cancer Institute
(and our small business partner Paul Martinetti, M.D., of Digital
Science Technologies L.L.C.), to create a website that will provide
education, self-help suggestions and advice on getting the best medical
care for men's cancer-related sexual problems.
creating the website, we interviewed 48 men of varying ages and
ethnicities with different types of cancer. We asked them to review
drafts of the website and report their experiences.
Alarming findings The
first, rather discouraging finding was that many men had never been
given a chance to discuss this important part of life after cancer. Some
valued the interview so much that they sent emails or called back to
personally thank Evan Odensky, the senior behavioral research
coordinator on our project.
Another common pattern was that men
didn't realize how important a sexual problem could be until they
experienced it. When they were planning their cancer treatment, 62% worried just a little or not at all that cancer treatment would damage their sex life.
sexual function was a major factor in choosing a treatment for only
13%. At the time of the interview, however, 79% of men rated their
sexual function as moderately to very important.