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Finding New Solutions in the Fight Against Cancer Through Research

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While the most overt cancer research news usually comes from efforts to derail the progression of the deadly disease, research into the development of alternative pathways to finding an ultimate solution to cancer often go unnoticed or fail to receive the same level of notice among the public. Advances are being made in new techniques to improve the effectiveness of traditional treatment protocols, the utilization of non-traditional or culturally specific treatment methods or identifying dietary or physical behaviors that may lead to increasing or decreasing the risk factors associated with cancer.

An innovative new treatment for an aggressive form of blood cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to Mounzer Agha, Director of the Mario Lemiuex Center for Blood Cancers at Hillman Cancer Center, the cell based therapy produced a 51 percent remission rate among patients with a strain of lymphoma that didn’t respond well to traditional chemotherapy or radiation. “There was no treatment that could possibly put them into remission, so to get a 50 percent remission rate with this kind of treatment is a major accomplishment,” Agha said. This is a breakthrough for patients and physicians, according to Agha. The treatment is customized to each individual’s immune system. “This type of therapy represents a paradigm shift in the treatment of blood cancer and it will completely change the landscape of how we approach and treat blood cancers in the future,” he said.

In oriental medicine, treatment using acupuncture needles has been commonly practiced for thousands of years in the fields of treating musculoskeletal disorders, pain relief, and addiction relief. Recently, it has emerged as a promising treatment for brain diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, nausea, and vomiting, and studies are under way to use acupuncture to treat severe diseases. A research team lead by Professor Su-Il In, through joint research with Dr. Eunjoo Kim of Companion Diagnostics & Medical Technology Research Group at DGIST and Professor Bong-Hyo Lee’s research team from the College of Oriental Medicine at Daegu Haany University, has published a study showing that the molecular biologic indicators related to anticancer effects are changed only by the treatment of acupuncture. The research was published in the online edition of Scientific Reports, the sister journal of the globally renowned academic journal Nature. Professor Su-Il In said, “This research, which combines nanotechnology and oriental medicine technology, is a scientific study that shows the possibility of using acupuncture as a method to treat severe diseases such as cancer.”

For decades researchers have known that dietary issues can often be a factor in the incidence of cancer. In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from VIB, a life sciences research institute, and Vrije University in Brussels found that a compound in sugar stimulates aggressive cancer cells and helps them to grow faster. Led by Johan Thevelein, a microbiologist with VIB, this research builds on what scientists already knew about the Warburg effect, where cancer cells rapidly break down sugar for energy and to fuel for further growth. While the research identifies a link between sugar and the aggressiveness of cancer cells, it doesn’t mean that eliminating sugar from one’s diet will eliminate the likelihood of getting cancer. “We have no evidence of this effect happens in healthy people,” Thevelein says, but “Reducing sugar intake during cancer treatment might help the system to overcome the cancer and it might facilitate the action of chemotherapy because it’s difficult to kill the cancer cells if they’re always activated [by sugar],” he says. “Providing sugar to cancer cells carries a greater risk of stimulating their aggressiveness.”

In Queensland, Australia scientist Georgia Chenevix-Trench has uncovered an additional 72 genetic markers that can indicate an increased likelihood that a patient may be more susceptible to getting cancer in their lifetime.  The discovery may lead to the development of a more definitive predictive test for breast cancer in women.

While most of us hope for quick and all-encompassing cure for cancer, the complexity and the infinite variety of cancer types indicate that a single solution is more than unlikely. The ultimate solutions will come from a combination a multitude of treatments and advances in early prediction and detection.

Gettysburg Cancer Center is actively involved with a consortium of doctors offering clinical trials for patients seeking alternative solutions and therapies.  For more information on the current clinical trials available, visit http://gettysburgcancercenter.com/patients/clinical-trials/.

Gene Therapy. A New Frontier in Medical Innovation

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Cancer is a disease that is experienced by young and old and by every economic and social segment of the world populace. At some point in everyone’s life, cancer will affect us individually, a member of our family or one or many of our friends and acquaintances. The American Cancer Society projects there will be 1,688,780 new cancer patients and 600,920 deaths due to cancer in 2017, for a disease that does not discriminate by race or national origin.

Cancer is where abnormal cell growths form in the body and interfere with normal, healthy body functions. Not new to the world stage, cancer dates back to ancient times. Today, after millennials of research and discovery, new treatments for a vast array of cancer types are being studied, many with promising results.  One such new treatment called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T) involves taking samples of T-immune cells called T-cells from a patient, genetically engineering them, and putting them back in to fight the cancer. Co-developed with the drug giant Novartis, the therapy, CAR-T, genetically alters a patient’s own immune cells to target and destroy cancer cells.

“We’re entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. The process takes about 22 days and begins with the extraction of a patients T cells, exposing them to the vector which genetically transforms them. They’re then expanded and frozen for shipment back to the patient. During the out-of-body processing of the cells, the patient receives chemotherapy to wipe out any remaining T cells to avoid interference with the, soon to be, newly implanted cells.

“This is a major advance, and is ushering in a new era,” said Malcolm Smith, a pediatric oncologist at the National Institutes of Health. The treatment appears to strengthen a patient’s immune system allowing their own body to fight the cancer. The treatment is recommended for cancer patients who have run out of options for traditional therapy. The new therapy is only currently available for patients 25 years or younger. Thus far, 83 percent of patients are experiencing positive survival results.

While overtly touting the success of gene therapy, researchers are tempering their enthusiasm after experiencing some significant life threatening side effects in 47 percent of the studies participants. These side effects have resulted in brain swelling and deaths, casting a shadow over the field. Seizures and hallucinations were also relatively common, but temporary. Though concerning, the side effects have been successfully managed with drugs. Quality control and how to standardize the potency and purity of living cells extracted from each patient are also a concern. Because of the risks, the treatment is only currently available at 20 US hospitals. The individualized nature and relatively small patient population both drive up the cost of the treatment for now.

“This is a big paradigm shift, using this living drug,” says Dr. Kevin Curran, a pediatric oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that will soon be offering the treatment. “It will provide a lot of hope. This is the beginning.”

“The approval of CAR T-cell therapy for pediatric leukemia marks an important shift in the blood cancer treatment paradigm,” says the American Society of Hematology. “We now have proof that it is possible to eradicate cancer by harnessing the power of a patient’s own immune system. This is a potentially curative therapy in patients whose leukemia is unresponsive to other treatments and represents the latest milestone in the shift away from chemotherapy toward precision medicine. Today’s approval is the result of over a decade of hematology research, including research funded by the National Institutions of Health (NIH).”

The Best in Cancer Care Across the Community

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Healthcare and access to quality healthcare is a critical issue for individuals whether healthy or recently diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  Most patients have experienced a private medical practice being merged into a large healthcare system and often don’t understand how that will impact their care.

While large specialized health centers can promise to offer the most advanced techniques, facilities and methods, they are usually located in large urban centers, often miles and driving hours from the patient’s home, requiring long and physically taxing commutes for frequent treatments. Although staffed with caring and competent professionals these mega centers can often feel overly clinical and crowded, giving the patient a sense of being just another number among many.

The best and most advanced treatment and care is becoming less centralized, allowing for advanced specialized care to be available within the patient’s own community, providing ease of care access and reducing the personal stresses often accompanying cancer therapy.

Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC) has been a leader in Oncology Care in the Adams County region since 1989. For more than 25 years, the highly regarded and vastly experienced medical specialists have been committed to providing cancer care in a community-based setting close to their patient’s home. The all-encompassing oncology and hematology programs provide a complete range of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care in an environment that recognizes the importance of treating not only the disease but the individual person behind the disease.

With Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Diagnostic Imaging, access to the latest clinical trials as well as an onsite laboratory and pharmacy, Gettysburg Cancer Center truly offers comprehensive cancer care. Their compassionate and experienced staff takes pride in providing the best possible care and personal assistance to their patients and their patient’s families. Dr. Satish Shah, Principle Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at GCC says, “Our mission is to provide individualized treatment, utilizing the best technical approach.  We focus on providing the best treatment in the right environment so that our patients can focus on getting better.”

To learn more about how GCC’s is helping their cancer patients, click on http://gettysburgcancercenter.com/about-us/testimonials/.

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.

“No One Fights Alone”

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a shocking experience even for those in more advanced life stages. It is a situation that most of us fear at some point in our lives. However, for those that receive a diagnosis at an early age when transitioning from adolescents to young adulthood, the ability to cope and process the significance of the news must be particularly challenging.

As a teenager in 2015, Chandler Banko’s was diagnosed with advanced, stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. An athletic and seemingly healthy seventeen year old, Chandler’s news that he had cancer wasn’t made any easier to understand by knowing that the most common age of diagnosis of this cancer is between 20 and 40 years of age.

Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s disease, is a type of cancer affecting the lymphatic system which occurs “when the lymph node cells or the lymphocytes begin to multiply uncontrollably, producing malignant cells that have the abnormal ability to invade other tissues throughout the body.” Generally more common in males than females, the exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known. Nearly 574,000 people reported having the cancer in 2015, a disease which presents in about 2 percent of the Nation’s population. Because of progress in treating Hodgkin lymphoma, most people with a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma will be long-time survivors. For those under twenty, the survival rate is 97 percent.

A positive and outgoing personality, Chandler found help and treatment at the Gettysburg Cancer Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There he found experienced professionals who are dedicated to treating not only the science of his disease but the personal emotional conditions that often accompany a cancer diagnosis and regiment of treatment. “My experience with GCC was way beyond my expectations” Chandler says in his testimonial video. “They never failed to support me and made sure I kept fighting”.

Chandler, his family and friends established a trust fund for the purpose of paying his unreimbursed medical expenses as well as support for education expenses. A student at nearby Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmittsburg, Maryland, Chandler is active as a personality at the Universities WMTB Mount Radio as he pursues a degree in Cyber Security and Business. All while holding down a job at a local sports apparel shop.

Recently the “Ladies” at Gettysburg Cancer Center gifted him a bunch of balloons in celebration of his 20th birthday. They all surprised him during a follow-up appointment by singing Happy Birthday. “Love these people!!!” said Chandler.

Looking back on his fight to survive his cancer, Chandler speaks of his experience. “If I had one thing to take away from this past year, it’s to never turn back and keep looking forward. To everyone who walked with me, fought with me, prayed for me and supported me, thank you. Today, I am officially done with everything pertaining to my fight. I completed my final surgery and I am proud to say: I am clear, I am healthy and I am moving on. I can now focus on living my life and enjoying everything it gives me. Life can be short, life can throw you around…. but it all depends on how you take those negatives, and build yourself up.”

Finding the Emotional Support You Need to Recover From Cancer

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The discovery that you have cancer comes with many intense emotions, not only for the patient but also for close family members and friends. After the initial emotional and psychological effects of the news subsides, there is a realization that everything in your life is about to change. Daily routines, family roles and future plans will be determined by a regiment of treatments and medications that often pose additional physical symptoms and challenges to everyday living.

The support of family and friends during this process is critical to help the patient regain a sense of normalcy and maintain emotional stability. Efforts such as pier group support and individual therapy can help reduce distress and help cope with the personal emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis. Such support can play a critical role in determining the your clinical outcome.

Musa Mayer, a cancer survivor and patient advocate says, “Belonging to a group where you can discuss anything and everything is very freeing. You can talk about everything from medical treatments to lack of sexual interest, to fury at someone who has cut you off while driving. The loneliness and isolation that so many feel when they are going through the breast cancer journey can be helped, if not erased.”

Your doctor and their professional associates and nursing staff will also play a central role in providing coordination and support during treatment and recovery. “We have to look at a person’s medical care from a holistic perspective,” says Terri Ades, MS, APRN-BC, AOCN, director of cancer information at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. Nurses are a patient’s greatest advocate.” Whether an oncology nurse or a nurse practitioner, these specially trained medical professionals become an important facilitator in managing overall care.

At his Gettysburg Cancer Center in Gettysburg, PA, Dr. Satish Shah, Medical Oncologist/Hematologist provides all-encompassing oncology and hematology programs with a complete range of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care. “It is our educated staff that set us apart from many other cancer centers,” says Dr. Shah, “We understand that every person is unique, each with their own set of psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs. Our team is dedicated to providing a caring environment for each individual patient and their families to insure the best possible outcome for their cancer treatment.”

In addition to your professional caregivers, The American Cancer Society has programs and services to help people with cancer and their loved ones understand cancer, manage their lives through treatment and recovery, and find the emotional support you need.

Grateful for Getting the Care Needed for a Long Life

Receiving news that you have contracted a life-threatening disease is an experience most of us hope will never occur. Most often normal, busy everyday activities put the possibility of suffering such an experience way back in our minds, relegating the concern to the “I’ll deal with that when I’m older and more likely to be a victim of such news.”

A projected 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, each one experiencing that moment of shock and disbelief long put away in the back of the mind. But while most of us are well aware of the risk of cancer diagnosis as we progress in age, the news that it can actual happen to us usually comes with a significant dose of disbelief and surprise, and when it comes at an early, usually healthier period in life, the news can be even more emotionally difficult to negotiate.

Matt Sheads, a healthy thirty something insurance executive in a famous small town in Pennsylvania lived an active, healthy lifestyle, performing numerous marathons, playing ice hockey and coaching local youth sports programs. His active, health conscious approach to life statistically identified him as one among many like him who would most likely NOT experience the news that he had a rare (for men) breast cancer. Breast cancer in men is rare with less than one percent of cancer cases of the disease developing in a thousand men. Matt soon learned that breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump located underneath the nipple and areola. Unlike women, men don’t immediately associate the discovery with breast cancer and often delay further investigation and treatment.

“When you are diagnosed with cancer, it all sets in”, says Matt.” I have an 8-year-old son and I was very scared of the possibility of not seeing him graduate from school. It was a huge shock to me, I didn’t even know men got breast cancer. Oh, my gosh, how can it happen to me? I was born and raised in Gettysburg and love the small-town feel.” It was through the local Gettysburg Cancer Center that Matt was referred to nearby Washington D.C. for treatment of his rare disease. A large University hospital, Medstar Georgetown Hospital has the small town, individualized philosophy when it comes to cancer treatment. “I felt very welcome, that I was a part of a family, I felt like I was in my home town” recounts Matt.

After surgery and treatment, the prognosis for Matt is good. His disease is in remission and requires only annual visits and evaluations. He is back to doing the things he loves; coaching his son in sports, playing hockey, running and looking forward to being at his son’s graduation. His advice to other men, “If you find a problem, you find an issue, don’t self-diagnose… go find a specialist… and have a conversation with them.” Don’t delay getting the care you need to live a long life.

To view Matt Sheads video visit  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUJatsj94hQ&feature=youtu.be.

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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.