Archives For cancer

Livestrong2I wanted to bring you an update on the fund-raising for the LiveSTRONG Challenge by myself and Team Cancer with Grace to this date. As of this past Saturday, a total of $500 has been donated on my personal page found HERE and our team now totals 3 members and has raised $1,010! You can read about the team HERE.

A few months ago I told you about the Challenge and how I would be riding in it. Thanks to all who have joined with us and have made a donation. It is not too late to either join the team or to donate to one of our team members. Think about it, either join us or donate for one of us, and you will help us take on cancer.

I will post daily updates or more as we get closer to the Challenge itself. Be watching and share the posts with others. We ride for those who cannot ride and in memory of those who fought cancer before us.

Thanks again for your support!

BikerI’ve been involved with the LIVESTRONG Foundation for several years now. Many of you know that. Some of you do not.

I’ll be riding again in Austin this October to show my support for those who are currently dealing with/have dealt with/know someone with cancer and their families. If I can get 99 people to donate just $60 each, we’ll reach $6,000 and I’ll attempt to ride 60 miles in that October event in Austin! To date, my max has been 45 miles – and that was 4 years ago. That’s like 1/5th of the readers of this blog! It CAN be done.

Your donation will NOT go to helping with my expenses. Your gift will help the LIVESTRONG Foundation fund vital programs and provide services to cancer survivors and their families. There are 28 million people living with cancer right now, and every dollar raised is a step towards beating it.

Here’s the link to my page where you can donate, join our team, or make a comment:

Won’t you please consider joining with me by making a donation of just $60? That’s like 12 lattes at Starbucks or 10 trips to the movies or dinner for two at a decent restaurant. If you can’t do the full $60, anything will help us reach that $6K mark.

I’ll keep you up to date on how the fund-raising goes.

Thanks for your time . . . and your donation!

An Unapologetic Post

December 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

MoonAs many of you already know, from following this blog, both of my parents suffered from different forms of cancer. My father-in-law also suffered from skin cancers throughout his life. Many friends and relatives have been diagnosed with some form of the little c. So imagine my excitement when I read that the University of Texas’ M. D. Anderson Cancer Center was announcing a new program to aggressively go after the disease in an unprecedented way. Please read on about their new program they are calling “Moon Shots.” And after reading if you’d like to get involved financially, please consider donating to our Cancer Survivorship Fund (a link is found at the top of this blog).

Just as President John F. Kennedy in 1962 explained why the United States should put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, MD Anderson president Ronald DePinho, M.D., has challenged our scientists and clinicians to rapidly and significantly reduce mortality in several major cancers.

While we’ve made tremendous advancements in cancer treatment and research, millions of people worldwide continue to die of the disease each year. The time is now to end cancer.

We’re in a period of revolutionary change with new technology and advanced scientific knowledge, most notably the mapping of the human genome, coming together and bringing new hope for cures.

Supported by MD Anderson’s robust research and clinical infrastructure, large patient volumes, unique drug discovery capabilities and global academic network, the Moon Shots Program focuses teams that will demonstrate  short-term improvement and major, long-range impact for their specific cancers across the spectrum – cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and survival.

Moon Shots

The Moon Shots Program initially targets eight cancers, selected based on rigorous criteria: the current state of scientific knowledge across the continuum from cancer prevention to survivorship; the strength and breadth of the assembled teams; and the potential for measurable success in reducing cancer deaths.

The selected cancers are:

Each moon shot team will receive funding and other resources needed for ambitious and innovative research ideas, prioritized for patient impact, ranging from basic research and biomarker-driven clinical trials to behavioral interventions and public policy initiatives.

Full implementation of the Moon Shots Program begins in February 2013.

“The Moon Shots Program holds the potential for a new approach to research that eventually can be applied to all cancers, and even to other chronic diseases,” DePinho says. “History has taught us that if we put our minds to a task, the human spirit will prevail. We must do this – humanity is depending on all of us.”

Moon Shot Platforms

The Moon Shots Program will be enabled by a series of cross-cutting platforms built upon a paradigm that brings together the best attributes of both academia and industry. These platforms are staffed by cross-functional professional teams charged with executing in a goal-oriented milestone-driven manner to convert current knowledge into drugs, tests, devices and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible.

  • Clinical Genomics – Clinical gene sequencing infrastructure, including centralized bio-specimen repository and processing
  • Omics – Bioinformatics – A high-throughput infrastructure for generation and standardization of large-scale “omic” data, including genomics, proteomics and immune profiling
  • Massive Data Analytics – An infrastructure for complex analytics and clinical decision support using integrated patient information, including clinical and research data
  • Cancer Control – Implementation of policies and education strategies to affect cancer prevention and early screening
  • Early Detection – Discovery of biomarkers and risk models by imaging, serum/tissue and phenotypic markers to detect early-stage disease
  • Center for Co-Clinical Trials – Define indications for novel therapeutics and developing combination strategies using preclinical models
  • Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy – Enable personalized cancer medicine by optimizing efficacy while minimizing  toxicity
  • Institute for Applied Cancer Science – Drug discovery and development
  • Diagnostics Development – Diagnostic test development and implementation
  • Big Data – An Information Technology infrastructure/environment that enables centralization, integration and secured access of patient and research data and analytical results
  • Adaptive Learning in Genomic Medicine – A framework for bringing clinical medicine and genomic research together to enable rapid learning to improve patient management using Clinical Genomics, Omics-Bioinformatics and Massive Data Analytics platforms within the Big Data environment
  • Translational Research Continuum – A framework to accelerate the progression of therapeutic programs from preclinical to clinical development stages, by integrating the Center for Co-Clinical Trials and other platforms with Phase I/II clinical infrastructure

Thanks for allowing me this chance to share this exciting info with you, my informed readers. May we see this disease wiped out in our lifetime!

3rd and final part of a series on cancer patients who become advocates.

‘Sometimes the caregiver needs the success story’

 Hans Rueffert, chef and contestant on the first season of “The Next Food Network Star,” got involved with the San Francisco-based Gastric Cancer Foundation (GCF) shortly after his diagnosis with the disease in 2005.

Rueffert’s wife, Amy, found the group online when she was doing research into his gastric cancer, and urged him to contact founder J.P. Gallagher to see if the group needed help Because Rueffert was such a willing and passionate spokesperson, he was soon invited to join the board. Research is a heavy focus of the GCF’s mission, Rueffert says. “We’re mapping the gastric cancer genome.” The group also raises awareness and gives support to those with the disease.

Rueffert is also an active member of Anderson Network, which connects patients with survivors who’ve been through the same or a similar treatment. Through its Telephone Support Line, he’s counseled dozens of gastric cancer patients. He does similar telephone counseling for the GCF.

“Some calls are quick — they just want to get a sense of what to expect. Other callers have become longtime friends. “We stay in touch; we check on each other,” he says. Rueffert has enlisted Amy to help with telephone counseling, too.

Often it’s not the patient, but his or her partner who reaches out for support, he says. “Sometimes the caregiver needs the success story.”

If you’d like to help survivors, click the link here or above.

Part 2 of 3 about cancer patients who become advocates.

Survivor emphasizes humanity of fellow patients
From the moment he arrived at MD Anderson, Tom Touzel showed the tenacity he brings to advocacy for bladder cancer patients. After receiving his diagnosis — and a poor prognosis — he spent many hours doing online research into bladder cancer. He determined that Colin Dinney, M.D., was the physician he needed to see.

But when he arrived at MD Anderson, he was told that Dinney, professor and chair of the Department of Urology, was no longer taking new patients. Touzel’s response was characteristically forthright. “I said, ‘This is a cancer center. I have a feeling he’s going to have an opening. I’ll wait,’” he recalls with a laugh.

And wait he did, all day and part of the next. Eventually, Dinney came out to speak to him. He said, “I understand you’re quite persistent.” Touzel shrugged and said, “I guess so.” Though neither could have predicted it, it was the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership.

After his treatment ended in 2006, Dinney invited Touzel to become a patient advocate for a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant in bladder cancer. Patient advocates are essential members of the research team on these multimillion-dollar federal grants, bringing the patient’s voice and perspective. Touzel, who judges national dog shows for a living, even established a second home in Houston to make it easier to be near MD Anderson for appointments and volunteering.

“I still don’t know nearly as much as I should know,” he says. He also volunteers several days a week in the Genitourinary Center, speaking to patients who have questions about the effects of treatment. Ask your doctor any question, he urges them. They’re obligated to answer it.

He’s even done training sessions with medical staff. “Even if they’re researchers who’ll be in the lab, I want them to remember one thing,” he says. “We patients are grateful to them. We’re happy to be walking, talking, living. But remember to look us in the eyes, make us human. Because that’s what we are.”

He says he promised Dinney he would give him three years’ of work on the SPORE grant and in the clinic, but he’s stayed much longer. “As long as they want me and they feel I’m contributing, I’ll be there,” he says.

Stay tuned for part 3 tomorrow.

Many of you all know about our family’s involvement with cancer-related issues. Sharon & I recently had the privilege of getting a tour and up-close look at our local cancer center that is part of Roswell’s Eastern New Mexico Medical Center (ENMMC). That will require a future post. But I wanted to share ways you, too, can get involved. You see, getting through cancer treatment is like surviving a siege. When it’s over, many patients resume their lives and don’t look back.

For others, though, the experience compels them to help others in the same situation. So they keep a foot in the world of cancer treatment by helping new patients individually, by staying involved with support groups, or by supporting research or advocacy efforts.

Over the next 3 days I’ll share brief profiles of three people who felt called to speak up for cancer patients.

From the personal to the political
Val Marshall is the mother of a pediatric cancer patient, though pediatric hardly seems to apply to her tall, athletic son Addison, who will enroll at Texas A&M University this fall. Since Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) nearly three years ago at the age of 15, Marshall has accompanied him to countless appointments and treatments.

A professional organizer, Marshall became involved with other parents while they passed time in waiting rooms. “They noticed my binder,” she says. Marshall’s customized binder keeps track of Addison’s appointments, medications, treatment requirements and more. Knowing how overwhelming this task can be for parents already under stress, Marshall offered to make binders for other parents.

Later, through her involvement with the childhood cancer support group Candlelighters, Marshall heard about and signed up for Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. A former pharmaceutical rep, she knew the drill of visiting congressional offices, making her case and trying to make an impression. But now she was lobbying for the “medical orphans,” as she calls them — the 13,500 children diagnosed with pediatric cancers each year in the United States. Because these are relatively few diagnoses, research funding is lacking, she says.

MD Anderson is the “last station of hope” for many families, she says. “There are so many kids who don’t make it.” She has great compassion for the families of pediatric patients, as well as the patients themselves. This compassion serves her well on the steering committee of Anderson Network, where she represents the parents of pediatric patients. She recalls that when a longtime friend who is a pediatric nurse saw her soon after Addison’s diagnosis, she hugged Marshall and said, “Addy will be fine, but you will never be the same.

If you’d like to make a financial donation to MD Anderson’s Survivor Fund, Sharon & I have set up a specific fund that helps with specific Survivorship Issues. Click on here or above to help out.

Many of you already know of our involvement with cancer-related issues. For the past several years we have helped with the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s LiveSTRONG Challenge in Austin – as participantsa and fund-raisers. Sharon & I and the Cancer with Grace ministry team recently participated in the recent Walk for Hope and helped raise monies for the Chaves County Cancer Fund. That fund assists locals who have been affected by some form of the disease.

Well, the other evening we were invited to check out Roswell’s Linear Accelerator IGRT machine and new MRI machine at ENMMC (Eastern New Mexico Medical Center). IGRT stands for Image-Guided Radiation Therapy. This machine can do a CT scan while the patient is on it, use that information plus any other locating info to assist the doc in guiding the radiation beam to treat certain types of cancer. This multi-million dollar device takes Roswell to the forefront of cancer treatment, not only in SouthEast New Mexico, but the whole of NM.

With the new MRI machine in the ENMMC’s Imaging Center, the Varian IGRT combines to provide a 1-2 punch in the fight to knockout cancer – or at least provide the best treatment available while remaining near home in the Roswell area. Less frequent trips to larger cities means people can stay near their own home for their cancer treatment. That’s a huge step forward allowing family and friends to remain as involved as possible with the patient’s progress.

 The new GE MRI is so detailed that the docs can see small abnormalities (like in the prostate), feed that info to the IGRT (if that’s the best treatment determined) and target that small area only. With the help and partnership of Dr. Jay Bishop, the IGRT can pinpoint the affected tissues while leaving the unaffected tissues in tact! 

Thanks to the fine folk at ENMMC and the work they are doing in the fight against cancer and for proviging new treatments to help survivors live longer!  

Ask the Expert

June 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

Several times a year, Ask the Expert features a different cancer-related topic. 

Your questions are answered by M. D. Anderson faculty and staff members chosen to address topics in their fields of expertise.  Whether you’re a patient or a caregiver, your questions are welcome.

Asking the expert is easy.  Just go to at any time during the week indicated and type in your question.  We’ll try our best to get you an answer within 24 to 72 hours.

The next session:  

June 4-8, 2012


Kathleen Anne Smalky, M.D., M.P.H. Associate Professor General Internal Medicine

If you’d like to donate to our cancer survivors fund, simply use the link above. And THANKS!