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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month Around the World

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Billed as the most common cancer in women, breast cancer is impacting the lives of one in eight women in the United States. The second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer, breast cancer most commonly occurs in women 50 years of age and older. Breast cancer is caused by a genetic mutation in the DNA of breast cancer cells but how or why this damage occurs isn’t fully understood. Some mutations may develop randomly over time, while others are inherited or may be the result of environmental exposures or lifestyle factors. More than 3.5 million women are living in the U.S. with a history of breast cancer.

Early detection remains the most important factor in the successful treatment and survivability of breast cancer. Caught early when known treatments have the best chance of success, breast cancer is survivable. Successful treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. “Risk factors include being female, obesity, a lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionizing radiation, early age at first menstruation, having children late or not at all, older age, and family history.” With the clear lack of knowledge for its causes, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was founded in 1985 by the American cancer Society and what is now known as AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Held each October, the event is an attempt to increase the awareness of breast cancer and to aid the solicitation of funds for research and treatment of the disease. NBCAM unites cancer organizations around the world in providing information and support for those suffering from the cancer. Breast Cancer Awareness is represented by the display of pink ribbons, first introduced by the Susan G. Komen Foundation at its New York City race for breast cancer survivors in 1991.

The effort by so many to bring worldwide attention to the disease appears to be having a positive impact. A new report from the American Cancer Society finds that death rates from breast cancer in the United States have dropped 39% between 1989 and 2015. The overall declines in breast cancer death rates have been attributed to both improvements in treatment and early detection by mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends women find breast cancer earlier when treatments are more likely to be effective. While there is a lack or definite agreement on when and how often screening is most effective, The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends annual screening beginning at age 40.

The professional team of oncologists and staff at Gettysburg Cancer Center supports the efforts of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in its world-wide goal to provide the latest information, research, treatment options and support for those who suffer from breast cancer.

Targeted Radiation Therapy Effective For Breast Cancer Patients

A new cancer research project funded by the United Kingdom is revealing some very positive results for breast cancer patients. The study (IMPORT LOW trial), led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre indicates that breast “cancer patients who received radiotherapy targeted at the original tumor site experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy, and their cancer is just as unlikely to return.” The results which were recently published in The Lancet, an independent, international weekly general medical journal. “This approach could spare many women significant physical discomfort and emotional distress,” says Professor Arnie Purushotham, Cancer Research UK. “One of the challenges when treating early stage breast cancer is trying to minimize the side effects that can have a real impact on a woman’s life, without affecting the chances of curing her.”

The study included more than 2,000 women aged 50 or over who had early stage breast cancer that was at a low risk of coming back. Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses ionizing radiation as part of cancer treatment to control or kill malignant cells. A common and effective treatment for breast cancer for many decades, large field radiotherapy is relatively painless in its application, but often the treatments produce side effects that range from low, short term to more severe, long term in nature. Depending on the intensity of the radiation, higher doses can cause varying, acute side effects for months or years following treatment. The nature, severity, and longevity of side effects depend on a number of treatment factors and the individual patient.

Precisely targeted radiation therapy can eradicate all evidence of disease in patients with cancer that has spread to only a few sites. Because radiation destroys cells, targeting the treatment to specific cancer cells limits the collateral damage to areas not affected by the cancer, reducing the side effects suffered by the patient.

The IMPROT LOW trial found that women who received partial radiotherapy reported fewer long term changes to the appearance and feel of their breast, than those who had radiotherapy to the whole breast. Dr. Charlotte Coles, Reader in Breast Radiation Oncology at Cambridge University, chief investigator for the trial and first author of the publication, said, “We started this trial because there was evidence that if someone’s cancer returns, it tends to do so close to the site of the original tumor, suggesting that some women receive unnecessary radiation to the whole breast. Now we have evidence to support the use of less, but equally effective, radiotherapy for selected patients.”

The technique, delivered by standard radiotherapy equipment, may lead to increased use of this treatment at cancer centers across the country and around the world. Professor Judith Bliss, scientific lead for the study within the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “We’re delighted that the results of this trial have the potential to lead to a real change in the way selected breast cancer patients are treated.”

Gettysburg Cancer Center is actively working with researchers on clinical trials, providing alternative treatments for its patients. For more information on clinical trials at Gettysburg Cancer Center, click here.

The Importance of Connecting Patients with Clinical Trials in Cancer Research

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Clinical Trials are at the heart of medical research and are critical to finding new paths to prevent, detect and advance new treatment methods and medications for debilitating diseases. Patients with an illness or disease participate in Clinical Trials in order to receive the benefits of the newest treatment options for recovering from their disease and to offer the best opportunity for researchers to find better treatments for others in the future. Treatments may involve new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe and may also investigate other aspects of patient care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.

Providing information to patients, who have been diagnosed with a serious disease, about the specifics and availability of important Trials that may be of benefit to them is proving to be challenging.  ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants being conducted around the world and currently lists 247,989 studies with locations in all 50 States and in 201 countries. But accessing, understanding and utilizing this important data can be difficult and challenging for the average patient undergoing the emotional and physical experience of a recent diagnosis.

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Robert Califf recently delivered a talk, “Finding the Right Balance in Learning about Therapies”, at a conference in New York City. In his address he said, “Our country is experiencing an unprecedented divergence of health outcomes that mirrors gaps in wealth and education…wealthy, highly educated people are benefiting from information that allows them to lead longer, more functional lives, while others are suffering. The clinical trials enterprise has gone awry,” he said. “It’s become unnecessarily expensive, cumbersome and arcane” In his opinion the system has become so costly and onerous that most of the important questions go unasked. “Doctors are heavily conflicted between patients and the institutions they work for,” says Dr. Robert. “The rosy view that doctors and patients are discussing all options and making the best decisions flies in the face of all evidence.”

The research and pharma industry is attempting to create new pathways to connect patients with the data and, most importantly, help them understand which clinical trial is best for their particular disease. The “Innovation and Clinical Trial Tracking Factbook 2017”, is an Assessment of the Pharmaceutical Pipeline listing the thousands of new drugs currently under trial across the U.S. and around the world. VitalTrax taps into a global database of clinical trials and ultimately organizes the complex web of information into a platform that allows patients, physicians, caregivers, and families to search for relevant trials in relevant locations – in a language they can understand.

Zikria Syed, CEO of VitalTrax says his company is taking an “Open Table” approach to enrolling patients in clinical trials. “We’re making a big bet on the fact that patients would appreciate tools that put the information, and an ability to learn about clinical trials and enroll, in their own hands.”

In smaller communities around the country local oncology providers are shortening the gap of distance and time for patients seeking the benefits of clinical trials. At the Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC), Clinical Trials are available to patients who want to participate in this important process. The localized opportunity voids the often long drive to large regional healthcare centers for Trial participants and enhances the patients understanding of the technical and practical elements of the process in a personalized but highly qualified environment.

GCC, a leader in Oncology Care across the Central Pennsylvania region since 1989, is actively involved in providing the latest in clinical trials to their patients throughout their community.

The Resulting Dread of Cancer Survival

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One of the most prolific progressions in research and development over the past decade has been the discovery and development of new treatments and drugs for cancer, for good reason. According to National Cancer Institute (NCI) statistics, cancer has a major impact on our society, both in the United States and around the world.  In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people died from the disease. Nearly 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. It is rare to find anyone who has not dealt with the dreaded disease personally or had a family member or acquaintance suffer from one type or another of cancer.

To answer the call for action in defeating the disease, researchers, oncologist and drug companies have turned-up the pace of research and discovery. Over the past 5 years, 68 new cancer drugs have been approved for various cancers, many producing significant improvement in outcomes for patients. In just the last ten years, drug developers and regulators have successfully shortened the R&D path for approving new cancer drugs safely and efficiently. The global market for cancer immunotherapies, cancer drugs that enlist the body’s immune system to improve patient survival rates, are expected to grow more than fourfold globally by 2022. The number of new drugs in the cancer pipeline has swelled by 45% over the past decade alone.

With the increased activity and availability of promising new therapies for the masses suffering from cancer, one would expect that a downward trend in costs would be a positive result of the new competitive environment. But increased competition and quicker access to market is not producing the expected. In previous decades, new drugs might cost around $10,000 for a year’s treatment. However, according to one recent study, today’s newly approved cancer drugs can cost a patient a staggering $120,000 to $170,000 per year.

The result of this revolution appears to come at a high cost for patients. In the past decade patients paid just 5% of healthcare provider revenue. Today the shifting responsibility to patients for these costs has risen to 35%, and the trend is expected to continue as employers continue to transfer the high cost of healthcare insurance to their employees, the trend to higher insurance deductibles and rising operating and regulatory costs. The result is that too many Americans are struggling to afford the care. Many healthcare consumers are avoiding or delaying needed care or abandoning treatment because of concerns about their ability to pay.

In a system where the patient first learns of the price of their treatment after it has been rendered, many are shocked at the staggering high price and confused and amazed by a complicated and convoluted system of service codes and the seemingly unending list of often unseen providers.  The euphoria and promise of this revolution of discovery is leading many to dread the unfathomable price of recovery and survival.

Gettysburg Cancer Center takes pride in seeking alternative financial resources that can assist its patients in managing the costs of their cancer treatment. To learn more, please contact: Erin or Kasey by calling 717.334.4033 or visiting the website at http://gettysburgcancercenter.com/patients/patient-assistance/.

Cancer Diagnosis: A Second Opinion Can Often Lead to the Best Treatment Plan

Most of us would not consider making a major modification to our home without consulting a number of professionals or contractors. After all, getting more than one perspective on the scope of work can reveal a clear understanding of the costs, the potential inconveniences of the process, better prepare for the complexities of the work and more clearly define our expectations. Few of us would argue against the benefits of investing the time and patience in getting a second opinion.

Research shows that half of the patients diagnosed with serious illnesses such as cancer, never seek a second opinion before embarking on a series of treatments for a sometimes life threatening disease. The data reflects that only three percent considered a second opinion to be essential before accepting a diagnosis or course of action. Considering complexities of cancer and the importance of selecting the right course of action for each specific type, it is not just a good idea to initiate a second opinion, it is imperative to understanding all your options and establishing confidence in your final decision. Such important health decisions should be made only after you have learned all you can about your diagnosis, prognosis, available and treatment options.

Several reasons why so many fail to seek a second opinion can be easily explained. A cancer diagnosis is scary; and many patients feel a need to act immediately on a course of treatment to have the best chance of survival. But while in some cases taking immediate action is imperative, most cancer patients have time to learn all there is about their disease before setting out on the treatment journey. Others feel a sense of unquestioned confidence in their personal physician’s ability to diagnose and treat their condition. They often feel that questioning their results could be seen as an insult to their doctor.

Medicine is not an exact science. Even new advancements in treatment options, even the most dedicated and conscientious of practitioners cannot be expected to have the latest science at their fingertips. Many doctors are not only very comfortable with their patients seeking a second opinion, most routinely recommend the action. The results of  “a 2006 study found that when breast cancer patients came to a specialty center for a second opinion, recommendations for surgery changed for more than half, a result of different interpretations and readings of mammograms and biopsy results.”

After Greg Walde received an initial oncology evaluation and treatment at a local oncology center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania he was told, that due to the advanced stage of his disease, he had little time to live. He was informed that there simply were no effective treatment options for his advanced stage of cancer. The disease, he was informed, had just progressed too far. “At that point,” Greg says, “I went home, very down about things”. After several weeks of distress and depression over his situation he decided to seek another opinion at The Gettysburg Cancer Center just down the street from where he had previously received the bad news. In Greg’s case the value of a second opinion included new treatment options and more time at living his life.

When faced with a cancer diagnosis it becomes critical to find the right oncology center with the experience and dedication to provide the latest and most appropriate medical treatment and support available to fight the battle. At his Gettysburg Cancer Center in Gettysburg, PA, Dr. Satish Shah, Medical Oncologist/Hematologist says, “We understand that every person is unique. Our team is dedicated to providing the latest approaches to treatment in a caring environment for patients and their families to insure the best possible outcome for their cancer treatment.”

For more information on the Gettysburg Cancer Center, visit www.gettysburgcancercenter.com.

The Value of a Second Opinion Provides Alternative Treatment to a Cancer Patient

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, it becomes critical to find the right oncology center that will provide the appropriate medical treatment and emotion support to fight the battle. One Gettysburg resident, when faced with a stage-4 cancer diagnosis, found the right support at Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC), a growing comprehensive cancer center.

Greg Wale received an initial oncology evaluation and treatment at another local oncology center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The diagnosis showed that cancerous tumors had grown to 4 and 5 inches in diameter and had migrated to the liver, bone, thyroid glands and colon. Greg was just 57 year’s old and was told by oncologists that he had little time to live. There simply were no treatment options for his advanced stage of cancer. The disease, he was informed, had just progressed too far.

“At that point,” Greg says, “I went home, very down about things”. After several weeks of distress and depression over the state of his situation, he drew upon his faith and was “spiritually lead” to the Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC), just down the block from where he had previously received the bad news. It was here that the centers principle oncologist, Dr. Shah, sat down with Greg to review his case. “I felt very comfortable here where there was a lot of very concerned people with caring hearts,” recounts Greg.

He immediately felt the staff at GCC wanted to help and he sensed that things were going to be different in this place where everyone seemed like family. Dr. Shah and his expert team designed a plan to attack his disease and provide as much time as possible for Greg’s future. With no guarantees, the team embarked upon an individualized course of treatment. After a couple of months, new tests revealed that the progression of the disease appeared to be slowing. According to Greg, “None of us knows how much time we have but it looks like I’m going to have more of it than what was told to me when I was first diagnosed thanks to Dr. Shah and this facility.”

For more than 25 years, Gettysburg Cancer Center has been committed to providing cancer care in a community-based setting close to home. The all-encompassing oncology and hematology programs provide a complete range of diagnosis and treatment. “Here at Gettysburg Cancer Center we understand that each patient and their disease are unique, requiring different approaches to insure the best possible outcome for each patient. Our family of caring and educated staff strives to provide insightful, compassionate care to all of our patients.” says Dr. Shah.

In this case, the value of a second opinion meant a new treatment option and more time for this cancer patient. To view the full patient testimonial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=448eg4F_SEg&feature=youtu.be.

Great Promise Lies Ahead for New Lifesaving Technologies

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Research into the effectiveness of stem cell and immunotherapy treatments for a wide range of chronic diseases is producing optimistic, if not yet proven, results. According to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, “there’s no limit to the types of diseases that could be treated with stem cell research. Given that researchers may be able to study all cell types via embryonic stem cells, they have the potential to make breakthroughs in any disease.” In recent year’s stem cell-based therapies have been initiated but the results of those trials may take several years of testing and study to render the treatments safe and effective.

Physicians at Emory Orthopedics & Spine Center in Atlanta are among a select group of physicians around the country to offer Stem Cell therapy and other regenerative medical therapies for the relief of osteoarthritis (OA) pain and chronic tendonitis. The non-surgical procedure uses the patient’s own stem cells taken from the body and injected into the effected joint or tendon to repair damaged tissue. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the U.S., affecting nearly 27 million adults. At other medical centers around the country, skin stem cells have been used to grow skin grafts for patients with severe burns on very large areas of the body. Only a few clinical centers are able to carry out this treatment and it is usually reserved for patients with life-threatening burns. In Europe a new stem-cell-based treatment to repair damage to the cornea after an injury like a chemical burn, has received conditional marketing approval.

Blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow were the first stem cells to be identified. This life-saving technique has helped thousand’s  worldwide who had been suffering from blood cancers, such as leukemia. In addition to their current use in cancer treatments, research suggests that bone marrow transplants will be useful in treating autoimmune diseases and in helping people tolerate transplanted organs.

Autologous, stem cells harvested from the same person who will get the transplant, and Allogeneic stem cells that come from a matched related or unrelated donor are the two main types of treatments currently approved for use. Combined with very high doses of chemotherapy, and often radiation therapy, the combined treatment has been shown to kill cancer cells in the patient’s bone marrow. Given by transfusion, the transplanted stem cells replace those that were destroyed. This application is among the most widely used stem cell treatment used to treat diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system.

In England, researchers have made exciting new findings that could offer a means of fighting resistance to treatment for people with esophageal cancer. Resistance to radiotherapy is a major stumbling block in the treatment of this cancer. The team of scientists, which incorporated specialists from Trinity, St. James’s Hospital Dublin, the Coombe Women and Infant’s University Hospital and the University of Hull in the UK, have published their significant findings in the international peer-reviewed journal Oncotarget. “This work is extremely important in understanding why tumors are inherently resistant to radiotherapy, and how they can acquire resistance. Our findings strongly suggest that it is the cancer stem cell population that we need to destroy if treatment is going to be effective in our esophageal cancer patients,” said Dr Maher.

Doctors in London say they have cured two babies of leukemia in the world’s first attempt to treat cancer with genetically engineered immune cells from a donor. The experiments, which took place at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, raise the possibility of off-the-shelf cellular therapy using inexpensive supplies of universal cells that could be dripped into patients’ veins on a moment’s notice. The infants, ages 11 and 16 months, each had leukemia and had undergone previous treatments that failed, according to a description of their cases published in Science Translational Medicine. Waseem Qasim, a physician and gene-therapy expert who led the tests, reported that both children remain in remission.

In the United States, China and around the world, scientists are racing to apply gene editing, stem cell and other immunotherapy treatments to provide improved treatments for cancer and other diseases. Utilizing the current path to approval it will be years before the new discoveries become commonplace, but the research must continue to advance if we are to realize the benefits of new lifesaving technologies.

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Clinical Trials; Offering New and Advanced Treatment Options to Cancer Patients

Once seen as a last chance attempt for cancer patients to turn back the progression of their disease, clinical trials are becoming many sufferers initial treatment option. Clinical trials are research studies that involve humans to aid and assist doctors and researchers in developing new techniques to prevent, treat, diagnose and manage side effects for cancer patients. Trial participants receive either the standard of care or the new medication or procedure that is under study. As a participant, patients receive the latest drugs protocols and treatment procedures available to discover ways to improve the quality of life for those afflicted with the disease. While the dynamics of clinical trials pose some additional risk when compared with long used methods, clinical trials can offer an additional measure of hope for remission or a cure.