The many faces of Cancer Today

The most recent issue of Cancer Today is in print and available online: http://cancertodaymag.org/Spring2012/pages/toc.aspx

In the “First Person” column, I write about A. Garcia and the circle of support she depends on from her family and educators from Sowing the Seeds of Health to make her appointments, care for her sick daughter, and maintain hope that the treatments will help her in the face of advanced inflammatory breast cancer.

I’ve spent the past five days at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago. Whenever I return to the windy city, where I spent several years in my late teens and early 20s, I think about how different my life is now than when I walked these streets on the way to a part-time job at Water Tower Place and took the subway–or el–to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. I was young and, corny as it might sound, carefree, never imagining that someday I’d return as a cancer survivor and advocate.

The sessions at this year’s conference were amazing. Dr. Raju Kucherlapati, from Harvard Medical School, said during one session that “We are at the end of the beginning.” Researchers are at the point where they are grasping the specific direction in which they must go to cure cancer–in all its heterogeneity–or at least extend patients’ lives by treating their cancers as chronic conditions.

Scientists predict that the face of cancer as a site-specific disease (of the colon, the breast, and so on) will give way to focus on the genomic pathways and mutations underlying multiple cancers. Personalized, or precision, medicine will change the conversation. It’s been a long time coming.

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