Orthopedic Oncology department preserves patients’ active lifestyles

You’d never guess that Luke Adkins is a cancer survivor by looking at him. But the 24-year-old paramedic had his entire left knee and part of his femur replaced with an endoprosthesis (an artificial bone and joint) in 2011 due to osteosarcoma, and MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology department has kept him active and on his feet. “I feel very fortunate,” Luke says. “I live in Lubbock, and removal of my leg was pretty much the only option if I had been treated there.” Second opinion yields internal prosthesis Instead of having his leg amputated, Luke came to MD Anderson for a second opinion. He ended up working with Valerae Lewis, M.D., who leads our Orthopedic Oncology department. “I was in Houston for about a month after the surgery, and when I left, I walked out of hospital,” Luke says. “I fully credit MD Anderson and Dr. Lewis for that.” Today, high-impact sports such as running, skiing and wakeboarding are no longer an option for Luke. But having an artificial knee and internal prosthesis has not prevented him from achieving any of his career goals. Luke works in the physically demanding field of emergency medicine. He also serves as a member of his county’s volunteer fire department, which required him to pass a physical fitness test. “I have no regrets,” Luke says. “I get around just fine. Some things are harder than others, but I don’t have any pain, and I don’t take any medicines. This has limited me in nothing.” Orthopedic Oncology’s goal is to have patients walking again MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology program is unique, Lewis explains, because we’re...

Orthopedic Oncology department preserves patients’ active lifestyles

You’d never guess that Luke Adkins is a cancer survivor by looking at him. But the 24-year-old paramedic had his entire left knee and part of his femur replaced with an endoprosthesis (an artificial bone and joint) in 2011 due to osteosarcoma, and MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology department has kept him active and on his feet. “I feel very fortunate,” Luke says. “I live in Lubbock, and removal of my leg was pretty much the only option if I had been treated there.” Second opinion yields internal prosthesis Instead of having his leg amputated, Luke came to MD Anderson for a second opinion. He ended up working with Valerae Lewis, M.D., who leads our Orthopedic Oncology department. “I was in Houston for about a month after the surgery, and when I left, I walked out of hospital,” Luke says. “I fully credit MD Anderson and Dr. Lewis for that.” Today, high-impact sports such as running, skiing and wakeboarding are no longer an option for Luke. But having an artificial knee and internal prosthesis has not prevented him from achieving any of his career goals. Luke works in the physically demanding field of emergency medicine. He also serves as a member of his county’s volunteer fire department, which required him to pass a physical fitness test. “I have no regrets,” Luke says. “I get around just fine. Some things are harder than others, but I don’t have any pain, and I don’t take any medicines. This has limited me in nothing.” Orthopedic Oncology’s goal is to have patients walking again MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology program is unique, Lewis explains, because we’re...

Adrenal gland tumor survivor celebrates life

In 2005, violinist Treesa Gold became concerned when she began experiencing weight gain, hair loss and acne. She saw a doctor, who told her, “You’re 24 and healthy. Stop being paranoid.” Unsatisfied with this response, she saw an endocrinologist a few months later. After reviewing her bloodwork, he ordered a CT scan, which revealed a 13-centimeter adrenal gland tumor. Treesa was diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma. A surgeon removed the tumor, along with her left kidney. But Treesa knew she needed to see someone with extensive experience in treating adrenal gland tumors for the next phase of her treatment. “My doctor said, ‘I will only see one case of this in your lifetime, and you want to go somewhere where they see many of these cases,’” she recalls. Adrenal gland tumor treatment In less than a month, Treesa traveled from New Orleans to Houston for her first appointment at MD Anderson. “My doctor was the first person who talked bluntly to me about my diagnosis,” Treesa says, recalling that her doctor told her that adrenocortical carcinoma has a very high recurrence rate. “But I needed to hear that to prepare for treatment.” Because adrenal gland tumors don’t typically respond to traditional chemotherapy, our doctors started Treesa on a half-gram of a type of oral chemotherapy called Mitotane, which treats adrenal gland tumors by suppressing adrenal gland hormone production. She was gradually given higher doses. “My medical team was so incredibly kind and thorough,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever been cared for like I was at MD Anderson, from when I parked my car to when I left for...

Want to quit smoking? 5 questions to ask your doctor

The single greatest step you can take to protecting your health is to quit using tobacco. Tobacco is responsible for one-third of all cancers, including approximately 90% of all lung cancers. Tobacco alone is estimated to claim nearly half a million lives in the US each year. But it can be difficult to quit smoking. It requires dedication, support and planning. In fact, many patients find it helpful to speak with a doctor or tobacco cessation counselor beforehand to get help and support to successfully quit. Below, two experts from MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program offer questions to ask your doctor and some information to consider when thinking about trying to quit. Maher Karam-Hage, M.D., is professor of Behavioral Science and associate medical director of our Tobacco Treatment Program. Diane Beneventi, Ph.D., is the supervising behavioral Psychologist in our Tobacco Treatment Program. How hard is it to quit smoking and how long should I expect this to take? It can be very difficult to quit, but the process is different for each person. The important thing to know is we have proven treatments that work. Some people may have several quit attempts before they quit for good. This shouldn’t discourage you! Research has shown that people who have previously quit are more likely to achieve long-term success on their next attempts than people who have never tried. The important thing is to keep working toward your goal to quit smoking.  What are the biggest steps I can take to increase my chances of success? There are several things you can do to increase your chances of success. It’s ideal...

Q&A: Phase I clinical trials

Phase I clinical trials are the foundation for how we develop new cancer drugs. Typically, they involve only several dozen patients and study a new medicine’s effect on a variety of cancer types. David S. Hong, M.D., sat down with us to explain more about Phase I clinical trials and answer some of patients’ most frequently asked questions. What is a Phase I clinical trial? Phase I clinical trials are the first time human beings are being treated with an experimental drug. It starts with researchers figuring out a pathway to kill cancer. A drug company then develops a medication that mimics that process. The primary purpose of a Phase I is to figure out how much of the drug we can safely give patients and see a benefit. But that’s not the only purpose. Phase I trials also help us figure out which cancers benefit from these drugs. Who should consider participating in a Phase I clinical trial? Phase I clinical trials aren’t for everyone. Most patients who choose Phase I clinical trials are running out of options. Typically, they have metastatic disease, haven’t had success with standard chemotherapy, have mild or no symptoms and don’t want to go to hospice. They’re willing to see if they can help others, and possibly themselves, by participating in a Phase I clinical trial. What questions do you hear most from patients considering Phase I clinical trials? “Is there a placebo?” Unlike Phase III clinical trials, there’s usually not a placebo in a Phase I trial. Everyone gets the drug, just at different dose levels. There are also a lot of...