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.