Tag Archives: oncology

A Patient’s Perspective during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week

By Jessica Tar, patient advocate

jess headshot2010 was truly a year that delivered the worst to my life. In April, the unexpected death of my father, a non-smoker, from lung cancer, revealed the mystery of this disease and at times, its unidentifiable origins. My family and I had no idea of how he had developed such an aggressive disease, taking his life only four months after being diagnosed. Unbelievably, my shock was to be exceeded just nine months after my father’s death when I received the news of my own diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma.

Seated in the office of my oral surgeon, the jolt and despair were instantaneous. The results of the biopsy my doctor had performed the month before were in, and the cells located on the side of my tongue were definitively malignant. This happened a year after I noticed a painful spot in my mouth, an area that seemed to wax and wane with sensitivity depending on what foods I ate and the degree to which I talked. That October, I surrendered to a pang of worry and made a phone call to the trusted surgeon that had removed my wisdom teeth nine years earlier.

The small sore on my tongue that was present during the time when my dad was alive, was connected with an oral cancer diagnosis. I pleaded out loud over this because on one of many levels, it was absurd. Immediately, I associated this disease with tobacco use, and I had never smoked in my life. At 28 and living in New Jersey, I was busier than ever, teaching swimming lessons, studying art in school, singing the national anthem at local events and I had proudly just completed acting work on my second short film in six months. Despite my sorrowful year, I was succeeding in all of the areas I had aspirations in. I racked my brain, mulling over how I could have taken my good health for granted in all the bustle of the year.

I waited until the end of the day to tell my husband, TJ. My mother and sisters were in such a state of despair over the loss of my father that I couldn’t believe I was tasked with burdening them further. The result of my lousy news to all parties was emotional chaos. I told myself and everyone around me that I was mindfully strong and assumed a responsibility to be both proactive and fanatical when it came to my treatment plan.

I was tested and scanned and talked to every medical professional I had access to. I digested and parsed out a lot of advice. My search for an oncologic surgeon was far and wide, extending to Manhattan and Cleveland. I confidently decided on a specialist in New York and from there on out I would frequently be in and out of the city, not for auditions or filming, but instead, for my health, for my life.

Introspectively, I prepared for my impending surgery by putting my ego on overdrive and telling my family, my best friend and my mother-in-law (a stationary aficionado) that I didn’t want so much as a “get-well” card. I was going to be fine and back at it in no time. (Right?). Truthfully, I was so afraid that I knew a glance at sickness-related materials bearing my name might crash my game face. They humored me and in mid-January I spent five quiet days in the hospital with nothing but a smiley faced balloon that waved in the breeze of the heating vent at night. I stuffed it into the closet in my room and commenced my recovery from a partial glossectomy (removal of the tongue) and neck dissection, a secondary procedure necessary due to the proximity of the carcinoma to my lymph nodes, which can be a superhighway for cancer cells.

My surgery was followed by a welcome ruling of turtlenecks and speech therapy. A few weeks later, the news I had been holding out all hope for was revealed. My oral surgery was successful and the cancer had not spread elsewhere within my body. For myself, the real impact of having cancer was the mental portion, which was greater than any physical repercussion of my experience. I had been depressed, especially when I related my position to singing or just trying to talk to the cashier at the supermarket in that first year. My tongue, as I knew it, was not ever going to be the same for the rest of my life. I could not let what happened compromise my mind; my state of living, despite the reminder with every word I spoke.

What I endured wasn’t nothing, it was something; a way to stay alive and healthy on the planet. It is this survivalist mentality that drives me forward as a mother to my children, my life force; as a wife to my best friend and husband, TJ; and now as a patient advocate. It is this month during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week® (OHANCAW®) that I dedicate this perspective of strength to the patients and families of head and neck oncology. For no matter what changes our bodies withstand over the course of our lives, we must move forward as survivors and actively participate in the pursuit of our healthiest selves.

Jessica Tar lives in New Jersey with her husband Thomas Tar, their three daughters and two rescued dogs. She is a national spokesperson for the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and was host of the 2015 IFHNOS (International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies) Opening Ceremony in New York City.

Activating a Support Community for People with Lung Cancer

Although lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the world, the disease has long been stigmatized, leading to a sense of isolation for people already struggling with the considerable upheaval of a lung cancer diagnosis. Many living with this disease have said that connecting with others who also have a lung cancer diagnosis can inspire them to learn to “live with lung cancer.”

Through a new program called LVNG With (pronounced “Living With”), three leading lung cancer advocacy organizations (Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Free to Breathe, and Lung Cancer Alliance) along with AstraZeneca are activating a community of people living with lung cancer and their loved ones, to share their experiences and inspire one another. More than 100 people with lung cancer and their loved ones contributed to the development of LVNG With by sharing personal stories about their emotional journeys and everyday lives.

The stories shared on the program’s website, LVNG.org, are authentic insights from patients, for patients. AstraZeneca connected personally with each person who shared a story and we were inspired by their generosity and willingness to help support others with lung cancer, whom they did not even know.

Richard, diagnosed in 2004, shares his perspective on getting connected:

Richard“I didn’t know what to make of it. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t scared. It’s really important for someone to have an advocate when they go through these situations because mentally I couldn’t really do anything. It went in one ear, out the other. It came out of the blue. If I was giving advice I’d say get on the phone, go online and check out Lung Cancer Alliance, check out United Against Lung Cancer – they’re a great source for you. I am now a Lung Cancer Alliance board member. I never imagined myself being an advocate for lung cancer. But I really do feel I need to be a voice. There need to be people who can speak out for lung cancer and give other people hope. Most people think of lung cancer as a death sentence, so to hear someone saying they’ve survived eleven years, it makes them feel really good.”

View more people’s insight on their journeys with lung cancer.

Janet, diagnosed in 2011, shares this practical advice on finances:

Janet“…There are resources available to help with travel expenses. For instance, the American Cancer Society has Hope Lodge locations where you can stay for free near major cancer centers (requires advance reservations), or may help with hotel costs. Some organizations will provide rides to get to and from the airport or to treatment centers. Some services like Cleaning for a Reason will clean your house for free. Others like Patient Access Network Foundation will help with co-pays for prescription drugs. Some pharmaceutical companies will provide targeted therapy drugs at a substantial discount to those who do not have adequate insurance coverage.”

See more advice on living with lung cancer.

Dann, diagnosed in 2006, shares the impact of his diagnosis on his friends and family:

“I have made a real effort to become even closer to them. For example from my granddaughters for Christmas, what I asked for was to have one day alone with each of them and so we went out and shared a lot of activities. That’s a day that I’m still treasuring now more than a year later, so I asked for the same thing this year and they’re both looking forward to the time.

“There are a lot of things that aren’t good about cancer, but I’d say about 95% of it has been really positive for me, and family relationships and friend relationships are a really important part of that. A lot of that comes from me reaching out to them and being a lot more honest about what’s going on. I share what I’m afraid of, what is working well for me, what are my hopes, what’s the next treatment coming up, I share some humor. And what I get in return from them is love. They extend themselves much more than I ever expected and I learned how much more they care about me than I realized. This is way too hard to do on your own. You really need to have the people you care about around you.”

Read more stories on interactions with friends and family.

LVNG With was developed to stimulate, inspire and connect a community of people living with lung cancer. Join us in helping people unite, to move from a sense of isolation to a place of inspiration. If you know someone who is facing a lung cancer diagnosis, please share LVNG.org as a resource or invite him or her to attend a LVNG With live event. We plan to add new stories to the LVNG With website on a regular basis. If you wish to contribute a story, sign up to keep in touch.

Ask Your Doctor: Is Prostate Cancer Screening Right for You?

By Nico Di Santo, AstraZeneca Medical Director, Oncology

Each September is nationally recognized as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, serving as an important reminder for men across the U.S. about a potentially deadly disease and how to take proactive steps towards early detection.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men after skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 out of every 7 men will be diagnosed with the disease in his lifetime, and 1 in 38 men will die from it. Fortunately, more than 2 million men in the U.S. count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.

Starting at age 50, I encourage men to speak with their doctor about getting screened for prostate cancer. If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, this conversation with your doctor should begin at age 45, as African American men and men who have a family history of prostate cancer historically have a higher likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be detected through screening with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test or a digital rectal exam (DRE). While these detection tests may result in locating prostate cancer when it is still in an early stage, it is important to be aware that these tests are not 100% accurate indicators of a man’s cancer status and more tests may be required to confirm the presence or absence of cancer.

2085-3_4thShift_PCAM_FinalEarly detection of this disease can be difficult because the early stages of prostate cancer typically do not show any warning signs. More advanced prostate cancer can cause symptoms, including:

• Problems passing urine, including a slow or interrupted flow
• The need to urinate more frequently, especially at night
• Pain during urination or ejaculation
• Blood in the urine
• Pain in the back, hips or pelvis

If you experience any of these symptoms, I urge you to start a dialogue with your doctor today. For additional information about prostate cancer, screening and support resources, visit the American Cancer Society.

Lung Cancer: A Unique Challenge and Opportunity to Help Patients

By Elisabeth Croft, MD, Senior Medical Director, US Medical Affairs, Oncology at AstraZeneca

Liz Croft Head Shot 8-27-15Through a simple internet search, a person diagnosed with lung cancer will quickly learn that their disease remains the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, taking more lives than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined each year. With lung cancer, however, there is often a false sense of personal accountability, as a common social assumption is that tobacco use alone can cause lung cancer. The reality is that approximately 25% of lung cancers are not attributable to tobacco and the proportion of never-smokers, who are diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing annually. Further, as it relates to smoking cessation, there are more than 80% of male and female former smokers who have stopped smoking at least 5 years prior to their lung cancer diagnosis. However, the stigma remains for many patients, and in order to progress beyond the association of lung cancer and tobacco use, it is the responsibility of the lung cancer community to educate the broader public about the potential causes of lung cancer and support research that will drive the opportunity for advancement of patient care, quality of life, and survival.

In addition to furthering our understanding of the origin and basis for why patients get lung cancer, there is also a need to comprehend the disease itself, and how specific types of lung cancer may be impacted if treated with targeted therapies. We can see evidence of this in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) where 85% of all lung cancers are classified, and the overall 5 year survival rate is less than 14% for patients with advanced NSCLC. Within advanced NSCLC, we see that based on testing for specific mutations, approximately 10 to 15% of US patients are identified as being EGFR mutation-positive, possibly providing an opportunity to treat these patients with a targeted therapy, such as an epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine-kinase inhibitor (EGFR TKI).

AstraZeneca is demonstrating leadership in this area of high unmet need – as evidenced, more than a decade ago, in revolutionizing the science and treatment of advanced NSCLC by developing the first targeted therapy. Our dedication to improving the treatment of NSCLC is further evidenced by our many clinical studies in this disease area.

As a leader in oncology, we at AstraZeneca believe that we have a responsibility to not only continue advancing the science, but to also find innovative solutions that improve overall patient health. To deliver on this commitment of providing innovative support for the lung cancer community, we have developed LVNG With, a program for people living with lung cancer, as well as their loved ones, to provide inspiration, support and resources. In addition to AstraZeneca, LVNG With was co-created with three leading lung cancer advocacy groups: Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Free to Breathe and Lung Cancer Alliance, as well as more than 100 lung cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. This dedication to the lung cancer community emphasizes AstraZeneca’s commitment to not only pioneering the next generation of lung cancer therapies, but also providing patients with helpful resources about the diseases.

3168320 Last Updated 8/15

A Physician’s Experience Becoming an Ovarian Cancer Patient

By Dr. Bebi Samantha Bacchus

My stage IIIC ovarian cancer diagnosis in June of last year took me by surprise, as it would most people. At this stage, the cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and deposits of cancer larger than two centimeters may have spread into the abdomen. I had been struggling with gynecologic disorders for years and had begun experiencing pelvic pain and a decrease in appetite. Still, with no history of breast or ovarian cancer in my family, I had no expectation of a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

As a pediatrician of 21 years, parents have come to me with questions about the health of their children, from the routine to the serious. I welcome their quest for answers because an informed patient is an empowered patient. I took this experience with me as I embarked on my own treatment plan. Armed with the recommendation from my geneticist and the support of my family, I decided to put an end to the nagging suspicion that the gynecologic health problems my sister, niece, first cousins and I had experienced over the years were due to more than just “bad luck.” I decided to follow the new guidelines for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which recommend genetic testing regardless of family history. This resulted in learning that I have a BRCA (BReast CAncer) gene mutation, which is not only important for my family to know, but also key in guiding treatment decisions.

I strongly believe the more you know about this disease, the more control you have as a patient and the better you are able to handle it. I am also certain that my experience attending the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) National Conference in July and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)’s Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer conference in June, as well as being a member of the BRCA Sisterhood Facebook group have better positioned me to live well with this disease. Hearing the stories of amazing women – some of whom have been living with ovarian cancer for 20 years – gives me hope and makes me feel that I belong to a group of strong and courageous women.

I am so grateful to my treatment team for how quickly they worked together to arrange my consultations, staging and surgery. I underwent treatment, had a hysterectomy and am currently in remission. The doctors tell me I am disease-free and that I should come back every three months, but any ache or pain makes me wonder whether this will be the day that I relapse. Over the past year I have learned how different your life becomes after being diagnosed. I started looking back at my medical practice, and realized that I, as a physician, may not always realize the impact my words have on other patients (and their parents). I think it has made me more empathetic – or sympathetic – to patients and what they experience.

While a diagnosis with ovarian cancer can be horrible and cause a great deal of emotional and physical pain, I realized it has also given me an opportunity to live a better life. My life has become richer and fuller because of the women I have met, the growing appreciation I have for my family, and the realization that my friends care deeply about me. It is important that we realize we are important, that we slow down and take some time for ourselves to heal.

Dr. Bebi Samantha Bacchus is a pediatrician residing in Glendale, Pennsylvania. She was diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer in 2014.

For more resources on ovarian cancer visit MyOCJourney.com, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered and Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Oncology Influencers Share Insights, Perspectives at 3rd Annual Blogger Summit

The role of the patient has evolved over time and today patients are more involved than ever in their healthcare and look to one another online for support, advice and a sense of community. AstraZeneca strives to engage with patients to ensure the latest information and support resources are available, and help determine where unmet needs remain.

Earlier this week, top oncology bloggers and online influencers gathered in Gaithersburg, Maryland for the 3rd Annual AstraZeneca Oncology Blogger Summit, which offered an opportunity to network, hear from experts about relevant topics, and share best practices for engaging with their online communities.

Sage_1Speakers addressed the unmet educational needs for oncology patients and their caregivers in the social media space while providing case studies, tips and tools for bloggers to expand their audiences and amplify their content. Deborah Torgersen-Paul, Executive Medical Science Liaison at AstraZeneca, gave an in-depth overview of the evolution of science in cancer, prompting a range of questions and active discussion. This was followed by a presentation from award-winning blogger Ciaran Blemenfeld (@momfluential), which focused on strategies to build stronger connections within an online community on various platforms. Afternoon sessions were run by Dr. Sage Bolte, Director of Life with Cancer and honed in on the sources of distress among cancer patients and methods to address changes in sexuality and intimacy after a diagnosis. Summit attendees also had an opportunity to tour MedImmune oncology research labs and have their research related questions addressed.

Group lab tour“We were eager to bring this group of online influencers together offline at the 3rd Annual AstraZeneca Oncology Blogger Summit,” said Rich Buckley, Vice President, North America Corporate Affairs. “By bringing together these leaders to network face to face, attend seminars on best practices in social media and updates on the state of the science, and tour research labs, we hope to empower these thought leaders to speak to their audiences with a deeper and broader context. They serve an invaluable role speaking to patients and caregivers managing cancer. We’re proud to be part of this patient centered endeavor.”

AstraZeneca has been committed to oncology research and supporting those living with cancer for more than 40 years. We hope the discussion generated by this summit will help expand the lines of communication with the community to better understand and accommodate the evolving needs of patients, as well as those who are involved in their care.

E-Patient Dave: “The Internet Brings Patients Together”

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting is upon us, and – more than ever – it promises to be a highly social (as in social media) event for doctors, caregivers, industry and patients.

Actually, let’s make that e-patients.

E-patients are at the center of an important and growing movement in which patients are connecting online with fellow patients to become more informed and more involved in their health care.

To highlight the role of e-patients we had the opportunity to ask questions of perhaps the best known e-patient – Dave deBronkart, whose story has been told around the world, including in a TED Talk, the Boston Globe, the BMJ, TIME, US News, USA Today and several other outlets.

Dave-deBronkart-20091229-27-cropped-smallAZ: What is an e-patient?

E-Patient Dave: Tom Ferguson – the founder of e-patients.net – coined the term e-patients to describe patients who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health care decisions.

The growing e-patient movement has demonstrated that as the internet brings patients together with information and with each other, a new world of participatory medicine is evolving, in which patients become potent agents in creating and managing their own health, in partnership with physicians.

AZ: How does an e-patient differ from a “regular” patient?

E-Patient Dave: Empowered and engaged patients don’t expect the system to do everything for them – they do everything in their ability to help out.

Too often, health care conversations occur as if patients aren’t even in the room – as if we are talking about a third person. We can’t let that happen. Being an e-patient is about playing a more active role in your health care. The most underused resource in all of health care is the patient – by far. When patients go online and connect with one another, they gain significant insight that adds to what you get at the doctor’s office.

AZ: You used to be Patient Dave. When – and how – did you become e-Patient Dave?

E-Patient Dave: A year after my diagnosis, I was invited by my primary physician, Dr. Danny Sands, to join the annual retreat of the e-Patient Scholars Working Group. Founded by Tom Ferguson, the group consists of pioneers, both medical and lay, who have been quietly altering the balance of power in healthcare.

I immediately saw myself in this group and became an active blogger on e-patients.net, and began educating myself on the issue as much as I could. I went part-time in my day job in 2009, and left industry entirely in 2010 to devote myself full-time to healthcare.

This is the first time in my life I’ve felt I have a calling, something I can’t get away from: It’s what I need to do. I’ve had plenty of fulfilling jobs in a great career, but not a calling. This is it.

AZ: Oncology patients especially are going online to become more involved in their care. You are a perfect example of this. Do you mind sharing your story?

E-Patient Dave: I was diagnosed in January 2007 with Stage IV, Grade 4 renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) at a very late stage. My median survival time at diagnosis was just 24 weeks. I had tumors in both lungs, several bones, and muscle tissue. My prognosis was “grim,” as one website described it.

Importantly, my primary physician recommended that I join an online patient community. They gave me invaluable perspectives, plus practical advice on treatment options and side effects that today my oncologist says probably helped save my life!

I received great treatment at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. My surgeon removed the extensive mess (laparoscopically!), and the biologic therapy program helped me participate in a clinical trial for a powerful but severe treatment. My last treatment was July 23, 2007, and by September it was clear I had beaten the disease.

AZ: Is the e-patient restricted to cancer patients or patients with serious illnesses?

E-Patient Dave: No! Everyone can become an e-patient because everyone interacts with the health care system – both as patients and as caregivers for children, parents and others. The more equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged that patients are, the better they can serve as valuable partners in their care.

AZ: What do patients have to do to become an effective e-patient?

E-Patient Dave: The first thing is to wake up to the fact that it’s your life that’s at stake, and if you want, you have every right to try to add to what your care team is doing. Don’t be passive – think, “I know I don’t have medical training, but how can I help?”

In my book Let Patients Help I list ten things e-patients do and say. #1 on the list is how to introduce yourself and your preferences to a doctor or nurse: “I’m the kind of patient who likes to understand as much as I can. Can I ask some questions?” The rest follows naturally.

AZ: How did you grow your online following and how often do you currently communicate with them?

E-Patient Dave: I’ve been online since 1989. There are two essential things about being social –online or off – that many people find mysterious, but they’re simple. First, listen.  You can’t be sociable if you don’t know what’s being discussed, because you can’t know what’s on people’s minds. Second, say something useful. So many people wonder why nobody reacts to what they’re saying online. Well, duh, do you have a clue what they’d be interested in? #1 and #2 are about exactly that. Don’t be a leech and don’t be narcissistic; be useful to the community.

AZ: Several years into your e-patient journey, what are the most important things you have learned – and what is your message for those just starting out?

E-Patient Dave: There may be people out there – and resources – who can help. Within two hours of posting my first message in my patient community, I got facts and practical advice that to this day don’t exist in any journal article or establishment website. But, unfortunately, most diseases don’t have such a good community, and there’s still no reliable listing of good communities for all conditions.

The world and what’s possible have changed a ton since most doctors were trained twenty years ago, and most people are just barely waking up to it. Back then all reliable information came through the academic publishing process. That process still works (though e-patients are keenly aware of its limitations), but today reliable information can show up anywhere through the “capillaries” called social media.

Quick Guide to Top Oncology Terminology

New approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer are being discovered and implemented every year. The rapid evolution of terminology and new treatment concepts can be daunting for those not working directly in the medical or research fields. As we approach the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which brings together 30,000 oncology professionals from around the globe to examine the latest oncology research findings, we compiled the following list of cancer terms that patients, advocates, non-medical journalists and others might find useful.

1. Cancer Stem Cells – Many scientists believe that every cancer has a limited number of cells that are driving and sustaining the cancer. These cells act as stem cells which can keep the cancer going over the long term. For this reason, many scientists are interested in understanding and targeting cancer stem cells for future treatments.

For More Information: Stanford Medicine Center

2. Immuno-Oncology – Using a person’s own immune system, or components of the immune system, to fight cancer is not a new idea, though this area of cancer research has increased in recent years and has received significant media attention. Immuno-oncology can involve stimulating a person’s own immune system to attack cancer cells, or creating therapies using immune system components, like antibodies, to help the body fight off cancer.

For More Information: American Cancer Society

3. Personalized Healthcare – Each individual’s cancer has a unique set of genetic information and every tumor has its own set of mutations and genetic alterations. As we understand and can test for more of these changes, we will be better able to fit a person’s cancer treatment to the characteristics of their tumor. This idea of tailored treatment for each patient’s cancer is the goal of precision medicine.

For More Information: NIHCancer.Net

4. Epigenetics – There is more than just DNA inside a cancer cell. We know that the genome of a tumor (DNA) is important, but how that DNA gets turned on and off matters too. DNA is the blueprint for what goes on in the cell. Epigenetics helps us figure out how those blueprints are turned into cancer cells and tumors. As we understand more about how the cancer cells turn on and off sections of their genome, new targets for cancer therapy are emerging.

For More Information: Keystone Symposia

5. Resistance – Similar to how bacterial cells can be resistant to antibiotics, cancer cells can become resistant to cancer therapies. This resistance can be present prior to treatment or can result from mutations in the cancer’s genome acquired during treatment.

For More Information: Annual Review of Medicine, Mechanisms of Cancer Drug Resistance

6. Adjuvant/Neoadjuvant Therapy – After receiving primary therapy, cancer patients are often given a second type of therapy, known as an adjuvant therapy, to increase the chance of long-term disease free survival by killing any remaining cancer cells that might have escaped treatment by the primary therapy. When treatment is given before the primary therapy to make it more effective, this is called a neoadjuvant therapy.

For More Information: Cancer.gov

7. Therapeutic Vaccines – Cancer vaccines work similarly to any other vaccine, boosting the body’s natural ability to protect itself through an immune response. In the case of a cancer, the vaccine attempts to generate an immune response against an agent that causes cancer, such as a virus like hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer, or directly against the abnormal cells that make up the cancer.A therapeutic vaccine is one that is given to a patient who already has cancer. There are currently many researchers investigating the use of vaccines to marshal a patient’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

For More Information: National Cancer Institute

8. Nanotechnology/Nanomedicine – Nanoscale objects are constructs typically measuring less than 100 nanometers across. Nanotechnology is used in many industries including electronics, optics, and information technology, and has found applications in cancer diagnostics and treatment. It can be used to detect cancer cell abnormalities on very small scales, and there are currently many therapeutic nanomedicines under development that have the potential to be effective cancer treatments.

For more information: National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

9. Cancer Genomics – Almost every cell in a person’s body contains a full set of that individual’s DNA from the individual’s biological mother and father. Together, this DNA is called a genome. The full set of DNA that is found inside a cancer cell is called a cancer genome and it contains small changes that are passed from one generation of cancer cells to the next. These changes are responsible for making a cell cancerous rather than normal. Researchers are working to determine what changes turn a normal genome into a cancer genome, and how cancer genomes differ from one patient to the next.

For more information: National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

10. Molecular Diagnostics – Diagnosing and understanding an individual’s cancer is becoming an ever more precise and important science. New techniques and tools are arising to allow physicians to learn about a patient’s cancer in less invasive ways. Molecular diagnostics examine markers from proteins to DNA that define the characteristics of an individual’s cancer. These tools can point clinicians to the best possible therapy, and identify potential new therapeutic targets for researchers.

For more information: Drug Discovery World

ASCO 2015 promises to be a socially charged event with live coverage throughout the meeting. Get the latest news from ASCO by following @ASCO on Twitter and join the conversation with #ASCO15. AstraZeneca will be covering the event on Twitter and Facebook.

 3134502 Last Updated 5/15

Personalized Healthcare: Early Diagnostics, More Targeted Treatment

By Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America

Families will come together to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, the same day Women’s Health Week begins in the United States. This time of year, in particular, makes me reflect on the opportunity we have in healthcare to profoundly impact the future of women’s health. New advancements in diagnostics and treatment have the potential to significantly improve women’s health – notably among ovarian, breast and lung cancer patients.

At AstraZeneca, we understand the healthcare system is moving away from a singular approach for all, and toward treating diseases with an increased focus on personalized healthcare.

The promise of personalized healthcare is clear: It can enable doctors to more quickly identify which treatments will be most effective for individual patients based on their genetic makeup. Personalized healthcare means we can identify when a potential treatment requires an individualized strategy at an early stage and develop an integrated diagnostic plan. This helps get the right treatments to the right patients at the right times – even faster.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of oncology, where more effective and targeted treatments are helping cancer patients live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since its peak in 1991, the cancer death rate is down 20 percent and the five-year survival rate has climbed to 68 percent.

5.8.15 img 3

Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States, and breast cancer remains the most common cancer among American women. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and is often diagnosed late because symptoms mirror everyday ailments.

5.8.15 img 2But there’s promise. For these women, it is vital that they understand their tumor type and hormone status so they and their doctors can tailor the most effective individual treatment plans possible. At AstraZeneca, we’re working side by side with leading scientists from different disciplines to better understand how complex data can be converted into innovative treatments. For example, over 80 percent of our pipeline across therapeutic areas is being developed with a personalized healthcare strategy and more than 30 programs have a companion diagnostic test.

For ovarian cancer in particular, up to 15 percent of women have a BRCA mutation, but nearly half of women with ovarian cancer and a BRCA mutation have no significant family history. Despite the fact that major guidelines recommend that all patients living with ovarian cancer be considered for BRCA testing, not all women living with ovarian cancer are tested. By collaborating with experts in diagnostics, we’re working to drive an increase in testing and a greater awareness of risks so that innovative treatments can be matched to those patients who will benefit most.

5.8.15 img 1We’re also using personalized approaches for testing lung cancer, which accounts for about 13 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States. There are currently limited options for treating patients with advanced or metastatic lung cancer. Targeted therapies and companion diagnostics may improve treatment outcomes for patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). AstraZeneca has pioneered targeted lung cancer treatments, and we are committed to advancing knowledge of patient management and diagnostic testing in advanced NSCLC.

There continues to be significant positive news in our fight against cancer in the United States and around the world. Taken together, increased education, improved treatments and advanced diagnostic tools are helping doctors make faster, more accurate decisions that are helping patients lead healthier, longer lives.

AZ Honors the Courage of Women Living with Ovarian Cancer

In recognition of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September, AstraZeneca is empowering women with ovarian cancer to know the facts and make informed treatment decisions. The commonality of ovarian cancer symptoms, its potentially asymptomatic nature, and lack of a reliable screening method have contributed to why ovarian cancer has often been called a “silent killer.” Sadly, ovarian cancer still ranks fifth in cancer deaths among U.S. women and claims more deaths than any other female cancer of the reproductive system.


AstraZeneca’s myOCjourney.com has launched during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to continue this important conversation around disease awareness.

In spite of these challenges, AstraZeneca believes every journey with ovarian cancer is unique. For this reason, AstraZeneca has launched myOCjourney.com to provide the support women in this community need to live their best life. The site provides key information, such as what to expect during the ovarian cancer journey, the importance of personalized care, and information about treatment centers and support groups. Recognizing the power of the support system, myOCjourney.com also provides useful resources for caregivers. AstraZeneca encourages the ovarian cancer community to share information from myOCjourney.com with others as a way to help raise continued disease awareness.

AstraZeneca remains committed to expanding on our more than 30-year history in oncology through continued gynecologic cancer research and believes that women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer need to stand together. There’s strength in numbers and with strength comes hope.

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