My B-cell lymphoma treatment during pregnancy

During the first trimester of my pregnancy, I had a lingering cough that would not go away. I thought it was allergies, so I procrastinated about going to the doctor. After all, I was a 33-year-old fitness instructor in top health. But after I coughed so hard I fractured a rib, I saw several doctors and underwent both an X-ray and a CT scan. That’s how I learned of the 16-centimeter mass sitting on top of my left lung. My doctor immediately reached out to MD Anderson Sugar Land, which is only 10 minutes from my house. Within three hours, I was there, discussing my tumor with Dr. Janet Tu and scheduling a biopsy to determine whether I had cancer. Dr. Tu explained that if the tumor was benign, it would be more complicated to remove surgically since it was so close to my heart and lungs. If it turned out to be lymphoma, however, we could melt away the tumor with chemotherapy. Tailoring B-cell lymphoma treatment for my pregnancy A week later, Dr. Tu called with a diagnosis: primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma. Because I was pregnant, she referred me to MD Anderson’s Lymphoma and Myeloma Center. Before my first appointment, I worried about whether my doctors would know how to treat me without harming my baby. But I could tell immediately that my team knew what they was doing. My doctors helped me find an OB/GYN who specialized in pregnant cancer patients and told me they knew that they were not treating one patient, but two, so my baby would always be considered in treatment decisions. That’s why...

Colorectal cancer survivor: Giving back changed my life

Sharing my stage IV colorectal cancer story with others is a blessing, though I’ll admit: at the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t feel this way. In June 2016, my gastroenterologist discovered a 4.5-centimeter mass in my cecum — a pouch connected to where the small and large intestines meet — during a colonoscopy. A subsequent CT scan revealed that the cancer had spread to several lymph nodes and my liver. Up until that point, I was a healthy and physically active 71-year-old, and suddenly I was thrust into a world of uncertainty and medical jargon. Trying to wrap my mind around it all was like trying to drink through a fire hose — overwhelming. Colorectal cancer treatment at MD Anderson I didn’t like what my first oncologist had to say, so I came to MD Anderson for a second opinion. Dr. Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez and Dr. Brian Bednarski recommended I begin treatment with surgery instead of chemotherapy because my tumor was impacting my appendix. So during a four-hour surgery in July 2016, Dr. Bednarski removed the tumor, along with 2 feet of my large intestine, several infected lymph nodes and my appendix. Shortly after surgery, I began chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Douglas Nelson at MD Anderson in The Woodlands because it is close to my home. Every other Monday, I spend about four hours getting my infusion at the clinic, then leave with a chemo pump to continue treatment for an additional 48 hours. Since I still have multiple cancer nodes in my liver and lymph nodes, I will continue this process indefinitely. Enjoying life despite cancer...

Colorectal cancer survivor: Giving back changed my life

Sharing my stage IV colorectal cancer story with others is a blessing, though I’ll admit: at the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t feel this way. In June 2016, my gastroenterologist discovered a 4.5-centimeter mass in my cecum — a pouch connected to where the small and large intestines meet — during a colonoscopy. A subsequent CT scan revealed that the cancer had spread to several lymph nodes and my liver. Up until that point, I was a healthy and physically active 71-year-old, and suddenly I was thrust into a world of uncertainty and medical jargon. Trying to wrap my mind around it all was like trying to drink through a fire hose — overwhelming. Colorectal cancer treatment at MD Anderson I didn’t like what my first oncologist had to say, so I came to MD Anderson for a second opinion. Dr. Edwardo Vilar-Sanchez and Dr. Brian Bednarski recommended I begin treatment with surgery instead of chemotherapy because my tumor was impacting my appendix. So during a four-hour surgery in July 2016, Dr. Bednarski removed the tumor, along with 2 feet of my large intestine, several infected lymph nodes and my appendix. Shortly after surgery, I began chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Douglas Nelson at MD Anderson in The Woodlands because it is close to my home. Every other Monday, I spend about four hours getting my infusion at the clinic, then leave with a chemo pump to continue treatment for an additional 48 hours. Since I still have multiple cancer nodes in my liver and lymph nodes, I will continue this process indefinitely. Enjoying life despite cancer...

What are ‘omics and how can they improve cancer treatment?

One gene can tell you a lot about your risk for developing cancer and how well you’re likely to respond to cancer treatment. But there’s only so much one gene can do, and in your body, it’s working alongside thousands of other genes, proteins and molecules to support everything your body needs to live. Where ‘omics come in That’s where ‘omics come in. The term comes from the Greek word “ome,” meaning group or whole, and in biology, it’s the study and characterization of all biological molecules of one type and how they interrelate in the body to produce the functions of life. So proteomics – the ‘omics of proteins – is the study of all proteins that work together to provide a specific function for a cell or organ. Genomics is looking at all of your genes – your genome – and how they interact. It’s important to look at individual genes in detail to learn more about their function, says John Weinstein, M.D., Ph.D. But researchers can complement that work by using ‘omic approaches to look at a gene in context and see how things work and interact in the cellular environment. Since Weinstein first used the term in a publication in 1997, ‘omics has been applied to almost anything scientists can study: glycomics, lipidomics, metabolomics, pharmacogenomics and immunomics, among dozens of others. Asking the right questions Scientific research is based on hypotheses – and the clearer your hypothesis is before you begin your study, the better chance you have of finding a high-quality answer. Much of the ‘omics work done helps researchers craft better-formulated hypotheses. “Using...

The fatherly advice that shaped our doctors

As Father’s Day approaches, we asked our doctors to share their fathers’ words of wisdom that left an everlasting mark. Here’s what they said about the men who’ve shaped them to become compassionate care providers and pioneering researchers.  Ask bold questions  “My father told me to ‘ask bold questions and then look for the answers.’ I share his sense of curiosity and desire to learn, and took my inspiration from him to become a physician (he was a cardiothoracic surgeon). His advice led me to engage in scientific and clinical efforts to improve treatment for our patients, including those with one of the deadliest forms of cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer.” — Stephen Lai, M.D., Ph.D. A strong work ethic “My father didn’t have a formal education beyond the sixth grade, but he worked long hours to make a better life for his family. When I was a teenager, he encouraged me to continue on with school. I became the first person in my family to graduate from college, and now I’m the Medical Director of MD Anderson in The Woodlands. I learned about a strong work ethic, dedication, determination and passion from my dad. He passed away during my internship year, and I wish he could see me now.” — Pamela Schlembach, M.D. The value of respect “My dad was a deli manager at a grocery store for 40 years. No matter what was going on in his life, he always smiled and treated his customers with respect. As a physician, I always strive to do the same with my patients and colleagues.” — Joe Herman, M.D. A commitment to...