Monday, October 24, 2011

Too Much Pink? Or Not Enough?

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, it's been incredibly rewarding to see the sheer number of pink events that have occurred across our community this year. It seems that October gets "pinker" every year, which I think is a very great thing.

But for some, the question has arisen: Is there too much pink, and is it glamorizing breast cancer? To answer the first part of that question, I say no. The amount of awareness generated by pink events is tremendous, and even more importantly, the amount of research dollars raised has allowed us to make significant advancements in the understanding and treatment of the disease. As I've said many times before, research is the foundation for eliminating cancer, and without it, all cancers - including breast cancer - would be a death sentence, like they were just a few decades ago.

As for whether breast cancer is becoming glamorous, it is important to remember the realities of this disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 230,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2011, and more than 39,000 deaths will occur because of it. And while the overall five-year survival rate is around 89 percent, it is still the second-leading cause of cancer death among women (after lung cancer).

I do, however, encourage you to do your research to make sure your donations go to the right cause or organization, such as the American Cancer SocietySusan G. Komen for the Cure, or us at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, where 100 percent of your donation will go directly toward research.

So, is there too much pink? No, there isn't. But we need more colors! For instance, November is both lung cancer and pancreatic cancer awareness month. Wouldn't it be great to see Birmingham covered in pearl for lung cancer and purple for pancreatic cancer? Or in teal for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September? Or dark blue for March's Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month? We should not, and must not, limit cancer awareness for one month out of the year.

Cancer is a 24-7-365 fight, and we need to be all in this together. I thank you for your support!

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Rare Visionary

Like many people, I was saddened to hear the news of Steve Jobs passing away last week after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is truly a rare cancer - a person has only about a one in 76 chance of developing it in his or her lifetime. But though its incidence is uncommon, it is one of the most deadly types of cancer. With a 95 percent mortality rate, pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

These survival rates are so poor because the disease is often not diagnosed until its later stages, as the few symptoms it exhibits don't usually appear early. Only five percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive five years after diagnosis.

But there is some hope, and we are making strides in understanding this disease. The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the few institutions in the nation to hold a SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) in pancreatic cancer from the National Cancer Institute. Through this prestigious grant, we are examining new and innovative treatments developed here in our laboratories and developing them for use in our patient clinics. Our SPORE gives us a tremendous opportunity to make real progress in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

That Mr. Jobs was able to fight this particular cancer as long as he did puts him in rare company. He was a visionary whose groundbreaking ideas changed the world we live in. I hope that the research we do at the Cancer Center will do the same - by eliminating cancer as a public health problem.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Big News During a Busy Month

October has gotten off to an extremely busy start here at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center! We began the month by announcing the renewal of our National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as a "comprehensive" cancer center - a status that we have maintained for 40 years.

Our NCI designation is what sets us apart in our state and region. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in Alabama, and the only one in the Deep South area that stretches from South Carolina to Louisiana and Arkansas. To maintain this designation, we must undergo a rigorous and extensive review process every five years in which members of our peer institutions across the country travel to our center to examine every aspect of our research enterprise.

During our most recent review, we received an excellent rating, with special emphasis placed on our community outreach and population-based studies and our translational research (moving scientific findings from the laboratory setting to the patient bedside). Our renewed grant is $27.5-million for the next five years, which allows us to maintain and grow our infrastructure that allows our scientists to conduct the cutting-edge research that we are known for.

On Monday,  to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Birmingham News "turned pink" for the second year in an effort to increase cancer awareness. This year, the paper extended its coverage to all cancers, and not just breast cancer. I was especially pleased to see that our Cancer Center was featured prominently in several stories.

Of course, with this being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are lots of events happening in our community to support this cause. Our friends and partners at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama have a tremendous number of events happening in October, from motorcycle rides to shopping nights to a restaurant week to pink ribbon bagels. I encourage you to visit their website or the Cancer Center's for a listing of all the great community events that you can become a part of!

We must remember that awareness for ALL cancers is a year-round activity, and the support of our community is critical in helping us achieve our mission of eliminating cancer as a public health problem. On behalf of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, I thank you for your support.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.