News and articles


 

There are many publications and sites that write about cancer. We want you to know we don’t produce the news items you can read in this section, they belong to the MD Anderson Cancer Center. This section only intents to inform you about what is out there.

However, we are working on the first edition of the Pink Ribbon Magazine as well as in the production of featured articles that will be published here.

 

News feed


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 treatment side effects

Chemotherapy leaves me nauseous and fatigued, and I’ve developed neuropathy in my fingertips and feet. I’ve also had to change my diet to accommodate my altered taste buds. However, people constantly comment on how well I look in spite of cancer. I believe that’s the result of my continued efforts to stay active.

I can’t exercise with the same intensity as before, but I still take mile-long hikes and do chores around the house and garden. I even purchased a bicycle to ride around my neighborhood. I do it not only because I know exercise is so important for my health, but because physical activity was always a passion of mine.

One of the biggest lessons I learned since my diagnosis is that enjoying life does not stop with treatment. Despite the hardships, I can — and do — live with cancer. I make future plans and travel when I can. I get on my motorcycle and ride with friends in good weather, and I like to play games with my grandkids. I try to live as normally as possible.

Finding the blessings in your cancer diagnosis

When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t see things this way. I didn’t want to share my diagnosis with anyone because I didn’t want to feel like a burden. After word got out, I became overwhelmed and actually embarrassed by how family and friends responded. I realized that my loved ones actually feel a need to help, and once I welcomed their giving hearts, I felt compelled to give back to others. 

Now I share my story with whoever listens — even prison inmates. We all have struggles, and learning to talk about them is empowering. I had no idea how my journey could impact others until I learned to speak out. It’s like cancer has opened doors for me to grow in ways I had no interest in before.

Cancer is a chapter of life. It’s not easy, but it can bring goodness into your life. Think of a way you can give back. You will be amazed at what blessings are returned. 

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.

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 treatment side effects

Chemotherapy leaves me nauseous and fatigued, and I’ve developed neuropathy in my fingertips and feet. I’ve also had to change my diet to accommodate my altered taste buds. However, people constantly comment on how well I look in spite of cancer. I believe that’s the result of my continued efforts to stay active.

I can’t exercise with the same intensity as before, but I still take mile-long hikes and do chores around the house and garden. I even purchased a bicycle to ride around my neighborhood. I do it not only because I know exercise is so important for my health, but because physical activity was always a passion of mine.

One of the biggest lessons I learned since my diagnosis is that enjoying life does not stop with treatment. Despite the hardships, I can — and do — live with cancer. I make future plans and travel when I can. I get on my motorcycle and ride with friends in good weather, and I like to play games with my grandkids. I try to live as normally as possible.

Finding the blessings in your cancer diagnosis

When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t see things this way. I didn’t want to share my diagnosis with anyone because I didn’t want to feel like a burden. After word got out, I became overwhelmed and actually embarrassed by how family and friends responded. I realized that my loved ones actually feel a need to help, and once I welcomed their giving hearts, I felt compelled to give back to others. 

Now I share my story with whoever listens — even prison inmates. We all have struggles, and learning to talk about them is empowering. I had no idea how my journey could impact others until I learned to speak out. It’s like cancer has opened doors for me to grow in ways I had no interest in before.

Cancer is a chapter of life. It’s not easy, but it can bring goodness into your life. Think of a way you can give back. You will be amazed at what blessings are returned. 

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.

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 ‘omics, you won’t get the final answer to the cancer problem,” Weinstein says. “But you’ll get pointed in the right direction for your next study.”

The large sets of data can help generate hypotheses by helping prioritize a gene or set of genes over others for further investigation, and they can be used to validate the data from a clinical trial. They can also lead to more studies: Once you’ve found something that’s works for patients, can you find something else that’s similar? Can you connect structure and function, or find two proteins that play similar roles?

The best example of this is the search for drug targets. Once one gene that can be targeted by a specific drug is identified, can you find another that’s similar but may be more effectively targeted?

A roadmap to better cancer treatments

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program, established by the National Cancer Institute and National Human Genome Research Institute, has generated data from more than 11,000 patients to map key molecular changes in 33 tumor types. Many MD Anderson doctors and researchers have contributed to TCGA, which has made data available to help researchers around the world.

Rehan Akbani, Ph.D., associate professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, has been involved in the gynecologic/breast cancer subgroup of TCGA. The goal is to find similarities and differences across breast and gynecologic cancers.

“We want to identify common biomarkers between these cancers, in the hopes of being able to apply our current therapies more effectively across tumor types,” he says.

Another major aspect of his research is a novel analysis of the transforming growth factor beta signaling pathway, well-known to impact many cancers. Akbani and his colleagues are the first to analyze it in all of the 33 TCGA tumor types, and they’re looking to use what’s already known about the pathway in certain cancers to help us better understand how it works in other cancers.

“We’re looking for opportunities for novel applications of existing therapies,” he notes.

Big data requires big collaboration

Much of what’s being done in ‘omics research wasn’t possible a few decades ago. By definition, ‘omics research is looking at the whole. That means any one large-scale study, whether it be of genes, proteins, metabolic molecules or anything else, has a huge amount of data connected to it. (TCGA alone has produced more than 2 petabytes – that’s 2 million gigabytes – of data.) It requires huge amounts of computing power and data storage, as well as trained professionals who know how to manage, process, analyze and interpret all of the data we generate every day in our labs and clinics.

That’s why MD Anderson’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biology department has 10 software engineers to help handle computing needs and to create new software programs that implement specialized algorithms to help in analysis and interpretation. They and the department’s statistical analysts work collaboratively with doctors and researchers to make sense of what’s been happening in the lab or a clinical trial.

The way forward

‘Omics studies and big data will never fully replace the more traditional one gene/one protein studies, Weinstein notes, but the two are complementary. Researchers can learn more about cancer and how it forms by combining the two approaches.

Knowing more, MD Anderson can take further steps toward true precision medicine. This will allow us to customize treatments for our cancer patients by using the best therapies for their specific tumor characteristics.

“We’re looking for as many vulnerabilities in cancer as we can find,” Akbani says. “If we look at sets of genes instead of just one, look at all the molecular targets and the relationships among them, hopefully we’ll find more ways to target cancer. It’s not a one-size-fits-all problem, so we need to find the options that fit everyone in need.”

A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s quarterly publication for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.

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 patients

“My dad, also a physician, likes to remind me that good doctors never lose sight of their goal: caring for their patients. It’s easy to get caught up in the paperwork, insurance companies and research goals, but the priority is always patient care.” — Anisha Patel, M.D.

“My dad told me to do what I love, work hard and always care for my patients as if they’re family. He also said to not expect anything in return, but to know that I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge that I have. His support has been vital in the challenges I encounter, both personally and professionally, and I’m so grateful to have a wonderful father like him!” — Ekta Gupta, M.D.

“My father was a physician and also the primary caregiver of his aging parents. He’s a humble man, but his actions that spoke louder than any words. His commitment to his parents and how he cared for them really shaped the way I see my work as a physician. It also allowed me to gain insight into the challenges our patients’ families may face when taking care of their loved ones.”– Melissa Chen, M.D.

Do the right thing

My father strongly influenced me and my career, but more so through his actions than his spoken advice. He set a great example of the benefit of hard work, the value in attention to detail and the importance of doing what was right and not what was easy.” — Donald Schomer, M.D.

Like what you do

“My father — an ear, nose and throat doctor — led by example. He loved what he did and showed me how important it is to like what you’re doing. When in training, my plan was to join my dad’s practice after I graduated. But when I developed a love for head and neck surgery, he completely supported me to pursue it and to stay in academics. My dad was the best surgeon I’ve ever met. That more than anything encouraged me to try to be the same.” — Eduardo Diaz Jr., M.D.

Do what makes you happy

“I was originally a radiology resident, but I missed interacting with patients so I debated switching to medical oncology. Several of my family members discouraged the change, given the loss of residency years and increased medical school debt. Then one day I received a letter from my father. He said he felt it was more important that I be happy and he would support my decision in whatever I wanted to do. That small handwritten note meant so much to me — it provided support to me and solidified my decision. And I have no regrets.” 
— Cathy Eng, M.D.

Remember where you come from

“Two things my dad said that stuck with me are: the importance of education and to not forget where I come from (Ethiopia), so that one day I can help others there. It had a significant impact in shaping who I am today.” — Salahadin Abdi, M.D., Ph.D.

A moral compass

“My dad has always modeled staying true to your moral compass and trying to be impactful to those around you. I think that directly influences how I behave and make decisions as a parent, spouse, doctor, leader, colleague and mentor.” — Anita Kuo Ying, M.D.

The gift of a strong work ethic

“My father instilled in me a strong work ethic and family values with these three pieces of advice: 

  • Be the best you can be.
  • Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family and patients.
  • Every decision in life is a question of cost-benefit.

I couldn’t be part of MD Anderson’s team if I wasn’t consistently trying my best. I couldn’t be a husband and proud father of three or care for my patients if I occasionally didn’t take a break to care for myself. And I wouldn’t have been able to guide my patients through their surgical journey responsibly without emphasizing cost and benefit.” — Victor Hassid, M.D.

 Do the right thing

“Do the right thing. Nothing in life comes free. Don’t ever owe anyone. Know your costs and don’t be frivolous. And it’s never too late to change.” — Nancy Perrier, M.D.

 Be a kind physician

“Neither of my parents have a medical background, so most of my dad’s advice were good general life lessons: ‘Be a good person. Do something you are proud of. Take care of people.’ He passed away in 2012, and some of his last advice has had the biggest impact on my surgical career. He said ‘I’d never have known I was so sick without all of my doctors telling me, so above all else, be a kind physician.’ I see people at a very vulnerable time in their lives, and I try to remember that with each patient.” — Summer Hanson, M.D.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.

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