They say: “no news is good news”, so mine has been good for a long time. However, now that there is a little news it turns out that it is still good. Cutting to the chase: I have just had my annual PET scan and it reveals no significant change from last year. So, I’m probably good for at least one more🙂
Two ancilliary pieces of news are basically neutral in tone. The first is that I will probably be getting the Big Lump surgically removed (and probably a small skin graft) sometime RSN. It has been a while since I’ve had any surgery, at least partly because it appears that the resulting inflammation may provoke more melanoma activity. However, we can be prepared for this to some extent which was not so much the case in the past. Furthermore, the motivation for doing this is to analyze the tissue to see if we can figure out why I am not getting a more “durable” response to the Interleukin-2 injections. About one-third of IL-2 recipients seems to end up more-or-less cured; another third don’t seem to respond at all; and the rest of us need ongoing treatment. Research has now advanced to the point where they may be able to pick apart the reasons for all this, and to adjust treatment accordingly. So, there may be more news in the next few months – which I hope will also be good.
The second piece of news is that a proposal to try me on a combo therapy of IL-2 (as at present) + an anti-PD-1 drug looks as though it is going to fall through. I met the oncologist a few days ago, and his reasoning was interesting. I thought anti-PD-1 drugs take the brakes off the immune system so that it puts up more of a fight againt e.g. cancer. This is only true as long as the drug is being administered; once you stop getting it, the brakes go back on. However what I did not know was that this only seems to work once – at least in my context. The proposal being floated was to see if the comination of drugs would knock out the melanoma completely, which it might do. If it fails to do that, I can still go on taking the IL-2 which will probably keep things under control BUT if things ever get out of control the anti-PD-1 therapy will not help. The oncologist wants to keep the anti-PD-1 drugs for a next-line-of-defence scenario, rather than taking any chances. That makes perfect sense, but it is a bit disappointing. It also highlights the gap in my understanding: why do anti-PD-1 drugs only work the once? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Anyway, it’s been a great year so far. I did manage to drive myself to the edge of an anxiety attack back in March (obsessing over some tricky car-related problems that I had to fix) but in general I’ve been in a good mood most of the time. I continue to meditate on a daily basis and to bring as much of the practice into my everyday life as I can. Living in a peaceful and beautiful part of the country well removed from any major beaten tracks is also a great help. P and I drove down to a Citroen Rendezvous in Saratoga Springs (upstate New York) where we were joined by A for a few days. It was seriously hot, but a lovely little trip in spite of that. A is coming to visit in a couple of weeks: I just hope that won’t coincide with the leg surgery! P is seriously into Tai Chi, and has just started playing with Ikebana, two more highly meditative disciplines. Enlightenment is just around the corner. Maybe. If we pick the right corner, perhaps.
In further good news, the brother of Mr. R.J of Calgary has undergone a second successful bone marrow transplant which ought to keep his blood cancer in check for another few years. On the other side of the balance, Ms. K.T of Calgary is suffering from terminal colon cancer; she is, however, coping very well, a source of great inspiration for me should I ever find myself in a similar position. My very best wishes go out to both.
Finally, assisted dying is now legal in Canada! In June, Bill C-14 received royal assent. This is a great relief to many of us who have no desire to die painfully for no particular reason except that someone else thinks we should. With any luck it will also spur the development of better palliative care and hospice living.
After the break: News of the World … of oncology. Stay tuned.
Here’s your cure for the summertime news, in broadly chronological order with a few witty remarks thrown in.
- 2015 was a good year for medicine.
- Research into natural cancer remedy – looks promising.
- Novodalin B17 warning from Health Canada – a less well-researched natural “health” product.
- There’s a lot of bad luck involved in getting cancer.
- New approach to studying drug resistance – and how to defeat it.
- An HIV drug that may reduce cancer drug resistance.
- Watching a cancer develop from it’s first cell – fascinating research.
- Towards a healthier sunscreen – all the SPF and vitamin-D too!
- SPF-30 sunscreen delays melanoma – in mice, anyway.
- Use that sunscreen! – Katie’s story
- More immunotherapy stories:
- An essay on Terror Cells – very readable and informative.
- New research into how meditation changes the brain.
- Meditation provides opioid-like pain relief – don’t expect miracles, though.
- Insights into pancreatic cancer sub-types.
- A kinder, gentler, more effective chemo regime.
- Don’t count on your mole count – more moles may not mean more melanoma.
- A blood test for skin cancer relapse – good idea.
- Acid attack on T-cells – neutralized!
- Targeted therapy may have T-cell suppression side-effect – unfortunate.
- SAMMSON RNA gene unique to melanoma – a new target, perhaps.
- To believe, or not to believe – religion, science, and the brain.
- Melanoma is tougher stuff in the elderly – I could do without that.
- SCS macrophages are your friend.
- Dendritic cells produce CTLA-4 – more interesting that it sounds.
- Single cell analysis of melanoma – this could take a while🙂
- Trial of pembrolizumab – looks good.
- Survival stats for nivolumab – slightly better than ipilimumab.
- The virtual dermatologist will see you now.
- Sneaking past the immune system – the role of the NLRC5 gene.
- Personalized vaccine yields long survival.
- Mushrooms work magic on depression.
- A universal cancer vaccine – now THAT’s news!
- CRISPR trial to start soon – editing T-cells to recognise cancer.
- Ipilimumab + nivolumab combo – quite effective.
- If you are over 55, pay attention! – melanoma rates have doubled over 20 years.
- Red hair & freckles increase melanoma risk.
- Biglycan – an unlikely sounding key to metastasis.
- Vitamin-D Q&A.
- Why men are more susceptible to melanoma.
- Poor melanoma survival rates for coloured people – nasty surprise.
- Early detection of melanoma in the brain – like, really early.
Well, that empties the news bin for another 6 months. There really is a lot going on which might help me (and hopefully others: I don’t want to seem selfish) live to an overripe old age. Wishing you all excellent health, lives full of joy, and not too much sunshine. Until next time ….