Friday, December 17, 2010

Avastin and Breast Cancer - Guest Blog by Dr. Andres Forero

Andres Forero-Torres, M.D.
Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the drug Avastin not be used to treat breast cancer. This is causing quite a bit of discussion in the cancer community and media, as this ruling affects thousands of breast cancer patients. 

The FDA says clinical trials have shown that Avastin does not prolong survival for patients with metastatic breast cancer. However, other studies have shown that the combination of Avastin and Taxol does improve disease-free survival.  The FDA recommendation also does not apply to clinical trials of Avastin used in combination with hormonal treatments or for clinical trials for the prevention of breast cancer. However, the European Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) is keeping the approval of Avastin in combination with Taxol for metastatic breast cancer.

Patients taking Avastin should continue taking the drug and talk with their physician. Patients enrolled in clinical trials using Avastin, including those here at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, should continue taking the drug until advised differently by study managers.

Andres Forero-Torres, M.D., is a hematologist-oncologist and senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. He specializes in the research and treatment of breast cancer and lymphomas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Inspiring Legacy

Like many of you, I was saddened to hear yesterday's news of Elizabeth Edwards's passing after a six-year battle with breast cancer. One of the many remarkable things about Mrs. Edwards was her willingness to speak openly about the fact that she was living with cancer.

Her death also highlights the importance of cancer screening, especially mammograms. Leading cancer organizations, the American Cancer Society among them, recommend annual mammograms for women age 40 and older. Mammograms are essential in detecting the disease early.

Here at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, we're working diligently to find better ways to detect, treat and cure all cancers. Our vision is a world where cancer is no longer a major public health problem, and I believe that will be a reality within the next few decades. Already we're learning that as many as 70 percent of all cancer deaths are preventable.

Our thoughts go out to Elizabeth Edwards's family and loved ones. I hope that her story will serve as an inspiration to the thousands of women who are living with breast cancer every day and to influence other women to get age-appropriate mammograms. Remember, mammography-detected breast cancer has cure rates well in excess of 95 percent.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Visit from the NCCN

This week, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center hosted a site visit from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Visitors included William T. McGivney, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer; Thomas D'Amico, M.D., Chairman of the Board; and Patricia Goldsmith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. It was a pleasure to welcome these colleagues to Birmingham and show them all the wonderful things going on here at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The NCCN consists of 21 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers, and UAB is proud to be one of the organization's founding members. Among the NCCN's many activities are the development of treatment guidelines for cancer that are the most utilized in the world. Through the collective expertise of its member institutions, the NCCN develops, updates and disseminates these guidelines to oncologists across the globe. With our involvement in the NCCN, we are literally setting the standard for clinical policy in oncology worldwide.

In addition, the NCCN publishes a drug compendium for cancer treatment modalities that is widely recognized and highly regarded by the insurance industry. I encourage you to visit the NCCN website and learn more about the work being done by this dynamic group. Our Cancer Center is proud to be one of the members of this outstanding organization that promotes high-quality cancer care.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

National Partners...Coming Together

Today, I am traveling to Washington, D.C., as president of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors to meet with the presidents of the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, among others.

The purpose of this meeting is for more in-depth discussion regarding the Preventive Health Partnership between these three organizations. The Partnership was initiated in 2004 with the recognition that cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer are, to a large extent, preventable.

Physical inactivity, poor diet and obesity are risk factors for each of these diseases, as well as tobacco use for cancer and cardiovascular disease. During this meeting, we will be discussing ways to enhance our prevention strategies through greater collaboration. I look forward to updating you on our progress!

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Cure: My Cause. Our Future.

Last night, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center hosted our Young Supporters Board for an orientation session to begin the new year. This meeting was a chance not only for the new board members, but also the existing members to learn more about the Cancer Center’s mission and the work we do. This group of young men and women, under the leadership of President Sam Todd, has adopted this theme: “The Cure: My Cause. Our Future.”
It was really amazing to look out at these young men and women, all eager to join the fight to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem. And the truth is that they will likely live to see this vision come true.
Based on what we have already discovered – and what will be discovered in the next several decades, there is little doubt that cancer will be conquered in this century. It will not be eliminated like smallpox, as cancer is a much more complex disease, but its impact on society will be reduced such that it is no longer a major public health problem.
The only question that is still outstanding is how early in this century will this occur. If we accelerate the delivery of what we already know that prevents cancer deaths as well as our discovery process by devoting more resources to research, this will become a reality sooner rather than later.
I thank the Young Supporters Board for their involvement. Their support and commitment is critical to our success.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Young Supporters Board members at Fiesta Ball 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take Advantage of What We Already Know

Last week at the American Cancer Society board meeting, I was again struck by the realization that approximately 70 percent of all cancer deaths could be averted by simply applying what we know.
Tobacco use, lack of age-appropriate cancer screenings, unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and lack of access to the highest quality treatment all account for this large percentage of cancer deaths.
We must all rededicate our efforts to eliminate tobacco use, encourage age-appropriate screening, promote healthy eating and physical activity, and assure access to quality treatment. This will require a concerted effort from policy makers, organizations, schools, churches, cancer centers and others.
If we were completely compliant with all of this, there would be almost 750 fewer deaths from cancer every day.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Taking the Next Steps

Last week, before I left for the American Cancer Society meeting, Dr. Lucio Miele and other faculty from the University of Mississippi Cancer Center, along with our community-based staff from the Mississippi Delta and Alabama Black Belt, met with UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center faculty to plan for the third funding period for the Deep South Network for Cancer Control. This network has been working for 10 years to promote breast, cervical and colorectal screening in traditionally underserved populations.

Our focus for the next five years is to determine how best to reach those who are still unreached after 10 years of work. We will get feedback and advice from the community on how best to approach this problem.
In addition, we are planning a research project to compare an individual level intervention to reduce weight with an individual level intervention plus community-based intervention.
Unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and obesity are becoming a major cause of cancer in developed countries. We must find ways to ameliorate this growing pandemic.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Faculty and staff from the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Mississippi meet to discuss their efforts in cancer outreach to minorities and underserved populations.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A New Opportunity

Today, I was elected to serve as the 2010-2011 president of the National Board of Directors for the American Cancer Society. I’ve been volunteering with the American Cancer Society for more than 30 years, so it’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to be a leader in such a well-respected organization.

As director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, I have been involved with the work the Society does to save lives and fight cancer. Throughout my career, I’ve always felt that the work I was doing at UAB was closely linked to the work of ACS. Being president is an opportunity to bring the two even closer together, which is incredibly exciting.

One of my goals for next year is to continue working to eliminate cancer health disparities. Growing up in rural Alabama, I’ve seen firsthand the inequalities in health care for minorities and underserved populations. Unfortunately, this problem isn’t unique to Alabama, but rather a problem across the entire country. As leaders in the fight against cancer, I feel that it is our duty to address this problem.

I’m proud to represent the American Cancer Society and the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center in this role as we work to save even more lives this year. I firmly believe that we will, early in this century, live in a world where cancer is no longer a major public health problem. I look forward to sharing our progress on this journey with you.

- Ed Partridge, M.D.