Chemotalk Newsletter

Chemotalk Newsletter, Vol. 3:  August 1, 2008

back to newsletter archive

A good August to you all ...

I had no idea, when I started this newsletter, how much worthwhile information related to chemotherapy treatment hits the internet on a daily basis. It's makes choosing incredibly difficult. I've added captions, to separate the stories ... And you're right, if you think I'd never last 5 minutes on the city desk of a daily newspaper.

Until you tell me what you want that you're not reading here, the newsletter will continue to focus on the stories that don't make "The Today Show", but have a bearing on the health of people who are still taking chemo, who've had it in the past, or those of us who may well have chemo in the future:



This trial is all over the news, but it's worth repeating, in case anybody missed it.

Patients are being recruited for a clinical trial of a new targeted radiation and chemotherapy protocol for PLEURAL MESOTHELIOMA.

Currently, the standard treatment is removal of the affected lung.

"Current surgical and chemotherapy treatments of patients with MALIGNANT PLEURAL MESOTHELIOMA are unsatisfactory and have not been shown to significantly prolong survival. In this study, we will investigate whether a combination of chemotherapy and radiation targeted directly at the lung's lining can improve outcomes while avoiding surgery," principal investigator Dr. Robert Taub, director of the Mesothelioma Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center, said in a news release. "The trial is also significant, because our center is the only one nationwide that is offering this experimental therapy to treat pleural mesothelioma," Taub said. It's expected the targeted radiation will kill cancer cells on the surface of the lung while sparing other parts of the lung and surrounding vital tissues. Patients aged 18 and older who have not had recent radiation therapy or chemotherapy and have not received prior Alimta chemotherapy will be considered for the study. Patients enrolled in the study will receive several rounds of targeted chemotherapy using the drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin via surgically implanted catheters. Some patients will be randomly selected to receive additional systemic (intravenous) chemotherapy using the drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed. All patients will receive targeted radiotherapy using the P-32 radioisotope. Patients may elect to receive additional surgical treatment, including removal of the affected lung lining or lung. For more about the study, call 212-305-6837.

* * *


CHRONIC LYMPHOCYTIC LEUKEMIA (CLL) is the most common form of leukemia in adults. This month, Genta, Inc. announced that based on information from its completed, randomized Phase 3 trial, there has been a significant increase in overall survival for patients who achieved a complete or partial response when treated with Genasense plus chemotherapy, compared with patients treated with chemotherapy alone.

Because this information is so new, please pass it along to anyone you know with the disease, or any doctor who treats leukemia patients.

* * *


According to the National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy and HEAD/NECK radiation therapy individuals are at added risk for oral problems like mouth sores, infections and tooth decay. In order to help members prevent oral complications, the Principal Financial Group(R) is extending extra dental benefits to those undergoing cancer treatments. Other insurance companies should consider implementing this excellent option.

My dentist says she believes that changes in the mouth and teeth aren't just related to treatment for head/neck cancer. She concludes that anyone taking chemo for any reason, is at risk for teeth or mouth problems. Seems like a good idea to schedule regular dentist checkups during and after chemo.

* * *

AIDS AND CANCER, TOO FEW TREATMENT CHOICES Not all news is good news. A recent study done in Spain of KAPOSI'S SARCOMA patients who also have AIDS and receive antiviral meds, indicates that the chemo treatment is very effective in treating KS, but has the downside of creating a high incidence of lymphoma or leukemia. The researchers suggest that milder forms of KS in HIV-positive patients should be treated with antiretroviral therapy alone. The study warns of "the importance of avoiding excessive exposure to chemotherapy drugs that could favor the development of complications", and mentions, in particular, the class of drugs called anthracyclins. Researchers only recommend therapy with liposomal-like drugs for severe cases of KS.

To some extent, anyone who has been treated with chemotherapy is at risk for future chemotherapy-related health issues. But those of us with compromised immune systems, including people who are HIV-positive, who have AIDS, or who take anti-rejection meds that depress the immune system, appear to be particularly vulnerable. Another reason why research is so important.

* * *


Reuters announced last month that the experimental drug denosumob reduced the risk of osteoporosis and fracture in men being treated with PROSTATE CANCER cancer medicines that can cause bone loss. Denosumab, a bioengineered antibody that targets a protein involved with bone-destroying cells, produced greater increases in bone mineral density than a placebo. The three-year study of more than 1,400 men with non-metastatic prostate cancer undergoing androgen deprivation therapy study also confirmed previous trial results showing that denosumab increases bone mineral density. Men receiving the drug also experienced less than half the incidence of new fractures than those receiving the placebo. The drug is given twice yearly, by injection. Tell your doctors ....

* * *


Research exploring new ways of exploiting the full medicinal uses of cannabis while avoiding unwanted side-effects will be presented to pharmacologists today (Tuesday, 15 July) by leading scientists attending the Federation of European Pharmacological Societies Congress, EPHAR 2008.

Recently, the cannabis-based medicine Sativex was licensed both for the symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain in adults with MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS and as an adjunctive analgesic treatment for adult patients with ADVANCED CANCER. Sativex contains approximately equal amounts of THC and the non-psychoactive plant cannabinoid, cannabidiol. "THC works by targeting molecules in our bodies called cannabinoid receptors" said Roger Pertwee, Professor of Neuropharmacology at the University of Aberdeen, who is co-chairing the cannabis symposium.

Sativex has received permission from the FDA, to enter directly into late stage Phase III trials in the US. The first large scale US trial in the US for cancer patients apparently started in summer 2007. The 300-patient, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study will evaluate the effect of Sativex in relieving average daily pain, reducing the use of breakthrough opioid medications, improving the quality of sleep and relevant aspects of quality of life among other outcome measures (like improving appetite).

I can't find anything to suggest that this trial isn't progressing as suggested. In the meantime, bear in mind that if Sativex works, so does pot, legal in California and coming to your ballot shortly, if you live elsewhere.

* * *


A new kind of test for cancer developed by a major research group could lead to better treatments with fewer side effects. For the first time, Boston researchers say they can sample tumor cells directly from the blood of patients and then count and analyze them in real time. This is important because it allows them to see how a patient's tumor cell is responding to a drug. The experimental test relies on a tiny silicon chip that captures tumor cells. It can quickly show when tumor cells become resistant to a certain drug, saving patients precious time. Researchers say if all goes well the test could be available within the next few years.

How's that for cool ...

And if you have any thoughts of how this newsletter could be improved, please email me directly, at

Elaine Jesmer

back to newsletter archive


Home | About Elaine | About the Book | Mission | | Chemotalk Newsletter | Media Room |
Chemo Coaching | Speaking Engagements | Blog | Links | Contact