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One of my hospital’s specialists in multiple myeloma… recently told me that he had treated a patient with a new kind of immunotherapy. “I think I cured my first case of myeloma,”
The NYT Opinion piece by Robert M. Wachter linked and excerpted below should be required reading for all multiple myeloma survivors and their caregivers. While Dr. Wachter is writing globally about all cancers, he mentions my cancer, multiple myeloma, because of a comment made to him about a new therapy success.
It is possible to actually cure many cancers when they are identified early. This is a generalization of course, but it is possible to surgically remove a solid tumor, possible undergo adjuvant therapy (chemo or radiation after the surgery) and kill any remaining circulating cancer cells roaming about the cancer survivors body. The result is that the patient is never diagnosed with that cancer ever again.
Multiple myeloma however, isn’t a solid tumor or tumors. It is a systemic blood cancer. The cancer therapy must kill every cancer cell everywhere in the survivor. And because MM chemo can’t kill every MM cell everywhere, MM always comes back. Always.
Yes, novel therapies such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy can put a cancer patient into remission. Theorectically forever. Unfortunately, Dr. Wachter cites research that estimates that abot 15% of advanced cancer patients will be helped by novel therapies. At great financial cost… 85% of those advanced cancer patients, however, will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars only to experience horrific side effects brought on my immonotherapy.
If you are a MM patient you must understand that conventional chemotherapy regimens alway result in relapse eventually. A cure must come from a novel therapy that brings overwhelming odds of terrible side effects.
If I sounded cruel just now keep in mind that I underwent a supposed “quack” therapy that put me into remission in early 1999 where I have remained ever since.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, let me say this loud and clear:
It is critical that you become an active participant in your care. Learn everything you can.
I am alive today largely because I took the time to find out everything I could about Multiple Myeloma and sought out the full spectrum of evidence-based MM therapies both conventional (FDA approved) and non-conventional.
Please watch the video below to learn more about the evidence-based, integrative therapies to combat treatment side effects and enhance your chemotherapy.
Have you been diagnosed with multiple myeloma? If you would like to learn more about both conventional and non-conventional therapies, scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply ASAP.
“I FREQUENTLY care for patients with advanced cancer. A majority have already tried some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Many have landed back in the hospital because the cancer has returned or spread widely and left them in intractable pain or struggling to breathe.
The hospital stay is often a time when patients decide to stop aggressively fighting their cancer, and instead to focus on palliative care and achieving a measure of comfort and grace at the end of life. The moment of transition can be subtle. It’s sometimes signaled by a sweet look from a husband to a wife, a gentle touch of the patient’s hand by an adult child, or two simple words: “It’s time.”
Over the past 20 years, evidence has demonstrated that palliative care decreases pain, improves comfort and even, in some cases, prolongs life a few months. In my experience, conversations about turning to it often begin with patients recognizing that curing their cancer is impossible. Patients sometimes ask for my opinion on this. While the conversation is often heartbreaking, it has rarely been a hard call.
But now it is. And that has thrown a wrench into the way we treat patients with advanced cancer.
The reason is a new generation of cancer treatments that have become available in recent years. Some, called immunotherapy, harness the patient’s own immune system to battle a tumor. Others, known as targeted therapies, block certain molecules that cancers depend on to grow and spread. The medical literature — usually circumspect when it comes to cancer, in light of many overhyped treatments in the past — now fairly gushes with terms like “revolutionary” and “cure.” In this case, the hype feels mostly justified.
Much has been written about the promise of these treatments, as well as their staggering costs — many cost several hundred thousand dollars a year. But what strikes me most about them is that by blurring the line between cure and comfort — and between hope and hopelessness — they have disrupted the fragile equilibrium that we doctors have long taken for granted.
I recently cared for a woman in her 80s, clearly dying of lung cancer. Or so I thought. “But what about immunotherapy?” her family wondered. When I reluctantly asked our oncologist about this, he didn’t scoff. “It could work,” he said quietly, as if not quite believing what he was saying.
Oncologists are seeing patients whose cases they once would have pronounced hopeless experience Lazarus-like responses to these new therapies. One of my hospital’s specialists in multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer with a previously dismal prognosis, recently told me that he had treated a patient with a new kind of immunotherapy. “I think I cured my first case of myeloma,” he said. His voice was filled with awe.
This, of course, sounds like wonderful news for patients and their loved ones. And if these new treatments worked most of the time, this would be an unambiguously happy story. But they don’t.
A recent analysis estimated that about 15 percent of patients with advanced cancer might benefit from immunotherapy — and it’s all but impossible to determine which patients will be the lucky ones. Just last week, a study of lung cancer patients demonstrated the overall benefits of combining immunotherapy with traditional chemotherapy. But here, too, the researchers noted that most patients will not respond to the new treatments, and it is not yet possible to predict who will benefit. In some cases, the side effects are terrible — different from those of chemotherapy but often just as dire.“