I have always been struck by the development of the field of medical oncology. It’s really not that old a specialty even though cancer has been around for eons.
It used to be that surgeons cut out what they could when you were diagnosed with cancer. And after a while most people died from their disease. Then chemotherapy came. And people lived longer, not always better. Some were cured. Sometimes the drugs caused second cancers. Now we have many, many new “targeted therapies.” And the field is changing rapidly and complexity of therapy is increasing. I have had a strange thought: Are the “ingredients” of successful treatment becoming like the prized recipe for your grandmother’s chicken soup? In both cases it’s a concoction designed to make you well.
As I interview doctors now I increasingly hear how new medicines are coming at them with ever faster speed. Expensive, but effective used alone, but more often in combination. So the studies in prostate cancer, breast cancer, leukemia and myeloma are very much about what to use, when to use it and in what order and dose. Now back to grandma. How much chicken fat, how much salt, how much pepper, how hot, let stand for how long, serve right away or the next day??? When I was a kid and got sick I found grandma’s chicken soup, with all its flavors and nuances – and love – would emotionally pick me up and, just maybe, clinically help make me well.
I can just imagine my grandma debating the details of the preparation with her friends – other grandmas.
I don’t mean to say our eminent medical experts in white coats look like elderly ladies on the “stoop” of a brownstone building in Brooklyn, but I have to laugh at some of the parallels. Of course, medical oncology relies on clinical studies – and I am all for that – and not just chit chat or anecdotal reports. That’s a good thing. What’s also truly great now is that in a growing number of cancers the doctors have the ingredients to talk about. In advanced prostate cancer, for example, it’s been a dizzying change. My interview with Dr. Dan George from Duke talks about that.
And our latest interview with Dr. Anas Younes from MD Anderson on new developments in Hodgkin lymphoma speaks to that, as well. Does the addition of a breakthrough new drug cause a paradigm shift when you start to use it as a foundation with both old and other new therapies? Obviously, this is a lot more powerful than chicken soup. But this still has the same goal as grandma had, to get you back to health.
As always, I welcome your comments!
Wishing you and your family the best of health!