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Friday, August 3, 2007

Rarely a 'Straight Line' to Success

A dream is the bearer of a new possibility,
the enlarged horizon, the great hope.
-- Howard Thurman

There are reports that when Howard Thurman spoke, he filled the entire room with compassion, truth, keen intellect, and joy. To be in his presence was to experience the drama of life itself-with all its attending conflicts-and to be carried beyond these realities to the reality of a gracious God whose will is life and wholeness.

On the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. Nearby, a monument to another, lesser-known Morehouse graduate, theologian and professor Howard Thurman. Thurman had a profound spiritual impact on King and on many other civil rights leaders. Yet for much of the last half century, Thurman's contributions have often been overlooked.

But the Howard Thurman legacy is documented in his writings and teachings and, indelibly in the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., reinforcing for humankind the pure influence of non-violence for social change.

In contrast to the actions the world is witnessing in Iraq and the Middle East at this time, the policies and practices advocated by King-Thurman to bring down American social injustice would be a course worth contemplating. Where are today's moderate voices? Where are those who would not break the peace to achieve peace and justice?


Now, less than two weeks before my scheduled stem cell transplant (SCT) from an unrelated donor at City of Hope, we had a follow-up visit for blood tests Thursday. The good news: no transfusions needed, blood counts are acceptable. Not good: my PICC line (the intravenous line through which drugs are administered and blood is drawn) became "frayed" and detached to the degree that it had to be removed. While this is not an uncommon consequence and is not serious, it will require a special visit to the PICC nurse for reinsertion next Tuesday, the day when we are next scheduled to see Dr. Nakamura, our primary physician, just back from his recent vacation in Japan.

Also on the immediate schedule are other tests, procedures, and counseling sessions in preparation for the SCT. The most recent CT scan showed evidence of the lymphoma in the chest and abdomen, not surprising but something the doctors will continually monitor, perhaps requiring another CT before the August 13 admission for the SCT.

I have noted before that our goal at this time is not remission of the cancer, but "control" that is defined as the minimal presence of the disease. While I notice considerable shrinkage of the tumor sites we have detected before, it is the presence of the lymphoma in "deeper" locations that makes this evaluation more difficult, but my medical team has to make that evaluation.

There is still a possibility that without an acceptable degree of this "control," the SCT will be delayed or cancelled. We would hope that is not the case.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Such Stories Give HOPE

Robert Preidt
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

TUESDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've spotted a protein that prevents the body's immune system from recognizing and attacking Hodgkin's lymphoma cells.

A team at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, are now investigating targeted therapies to disable the protein, called Galectin 1, to improve a patient's ability to fight the blood cancer.

"We're excited about this treatment lead," study leader and medical oncologist Dr. Margaret Shipp said in a prepared statement. "We are currently generating antibodies that can neutralize (Galectin 1), and we'd like to fast-track this experimental therapy into clinical trials," she said.

If the treatment approach proves effective, it may help patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma avoid long-term complications -- such as heart damage and the risk of developing a second kind of cancer -- caused by standard treatments that include radiation, Shipp said.

The research was published online July 30 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is expected to be in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

Almost 8,200 people (most of them young adults) in the United States will be diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma this year, and about 1,070 people will die from this kind of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Shipp believes Galectin 1 may play a role in other kinds of cancers. She noted that a colleague at the University of Buenos Aires in Brazil has found that blocking Galectin 1 in mice with melanoma skin cancer enabled the rodents' immune systems to eliminate that malignancy.


Although this research deals with Hodgkin's lymphoma and my mantle cell lymphoma is of the non-Hodgkin's variety, much that I have read about this disease tells me that my struggle with overcoming this aggressive cancer is my body's basic inability to fight the lymphoma and the root cause may be the presence of a particular protein (Galectin possibly).

While we have set our sights on the stem cell transplant (SCT) from an unrelated donor whose immune system has the ability to mount that fight for me, someday (perhaps not in time for me) scientists may find a way to "arm" patients with the ability to refortify patient immune systems to avoid the need for the costy, risky, and uncertain resuts of SCT. That is our hope.

No Dodging, But 'Think Cure'

Dodgers launch ThinkCure partnership
07/31/2007 11:53 PM ET
By Jayson Addcox /

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers and chairman Frank McCourt held a press conference prior to Tuesday night's game (July 31) against the Giants to announce the launch of ThinkCure, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to raising funds for critical cancer research at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

"You know, baseball is about records and it's about winning, but it's also about family and community," McCourt said. "Today it gives me a great deal of pleasure to announce the launch of ThinkCure. It's a charity; its purpose is to raise funds for cancer research and its mission is to find a cure for cancer."

ThinkCure is following in the footsteps of the Jimmy Fund, which was launched in 1948 by the Boston Braves and later became the official charity of the Boston Red Sox and the Variety Club of New England. The McCourt family has been associated with the Jimmy Fund since its inception when McCourt's grandfather Francis McCourt was a co-owner of the Boston Braves.

"In 1948, when my grandfather was a partial owner of the Boston Braves, they started something called the Jimmy Fund," McCourt said. "And from this modest beginning -- I can remember putting my nickels and dimes in this piggy bank -- the Jimmy Fund now raises over $50 million per year for cancer research, so this gives me great confidence in this partnership."

The partnership between the City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is one that is actively working to develop new approaches to treat cancer. Scientists from both institutions are collaborating to better understand and treat brain tumors, leukemia, neuroblastoma and other cancers. They are also developing clinical trials to evaluate new immune therapies and improve cancer treatments.



As one who has spent virtually an entire careeer in fund-development for nonprofit hospitals, I am impressed by the level and the effectiveness by which City of Hope develops its "culture of philanthropy." Patients and visitors to this healing center cannot walk a single corridor without seeing evidence of recognition to the thousands of donors who have and are supporting this work. The partnership with the Dodgers in the "ThinkCure" charity is but one more example of how organizations like City of Hope extend their "good works" by allowing others to do good.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

7/29/07: Making Progress Toward SCT

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. Galatians 5:5 (NIV)

Get SCREENSAVER Images like this one from PAPERQUOTE

Just four days following the last outpatient chemo treatment, the tumor sites are again greatly diminished, but not totally oblated. Still, it seems that this last treatment is achieving the "control" that the physicians desired. We will know more about their observations and diagnosis when we visit City of Hope this coming week.

This weekend also marks my first full week on medical leave and the time seems to have been passing quickly. I am still adjusting (as is Dee Dee) to this stay-at-home routine, but thanks to my work on this journal and several other web-based projects (you can see that I am now into "blogging"), my time is occupied.

Also regarding the last treatment, side effects are again minimal with some nausea and fatigue as before, but nothing major. Appetite is fine. We are now hopeful that this will be the only additional treatment needed before admission for the SCT on August 13, but we can't be certain. We have multiple visits to COH this week for tests and procedures required before that hospital admission.

As I mentioned before, this last chemo treatment makes for more than a dozen different drug combinations I have been given in the past 16 months (easy to lose count). Still, this is only a small fraction of the current number of approved CANCER drugs. Here is a link to the FDA web site with an interesting chart of all of the currently approved drugs. CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION

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