Entries from April 2007 ↓

it’s 4/20, baby

yes it’s a beautiful friday afternoon but you’d think CU students would head to the rooftop bar not the center of campus… but you’d be wrong…’cause it’s almost 4:20 on 4/20… smoke it if you got it, I guesss.

On the road…

Left early for Albuquerque to avoid the snow… still hit nasty weather in the Springs and near Pueblo… Rain in NM, but great scenery

blogging by phone ….

so I tried blogging live at cwa today, but it turns out this system doesn't do straight to the web…. I needed set up… so we'll try this test post from the fancy new phone and see what happens…

Susan Love at CWA

Most CWA panels have creative, sexy titles. But this one is simply ”Breast Cancer” Probably because Susan Love is the guru.

The room is filled with mostly women, a few men; some of the women have the trademark short, curly hair; others wear caps or scarves to cover the baldness. But most of us are looking fine. One of my two BC neighbors is there, the other is working today.

CU Chancellor Bud Peterson introduces the good doctor, drawing applause when he calls for an eradication of cancer and laments the passing of Molly Ivins.

Love begins by noting the loss of Ivins and reccurance breast cancer for Elizabeth Edwards. And she points out the news isn’t always bad.

“We cure three-quarters of breast cancer,” she says.

She calls the current treatment “slash, burn and poison,” i.e., surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

It still shows you we don’t really know much about the disease.”

And she slashes several myths, such as that about early detection.

“It doesn’t grow in an orderly progression…you can have it for a long time,” she says. “We all probably do have little cancers.”

That’s been shown in analysis of tissue from women who have breast reduction surgery, Love says.

Then there’s the tale of what sort of cancer it is. At one time, doctors thought there were two kinds, ductal and lobular.

Love says DNA microarrays have revealed that there are actually five different kinds of breast cancer – two are hormonally sensitive, three are not. One is slow growing and not aggressive; another spreads so rapidly that early detection won’t make much difference.

“The cancer Molly Ivins had was a bad cancer,” Love says. “You’re still not going to make a difference in those cancers… The best we’ve ever been able to do is reduce deaths by thirty percent.”

Still, Love says better imaging is not the answer. Instead we need to figure out what conditions lead to cancer. And treatment based on killing every cancer cell isn’t necessarily effective.

“They’re Timothy McVeigh, not Osama bin Laden.”

The environment of cancer cells makes a difference. Breast density, for instances, creates an environment that supports cancer. Hormones also are a factor. Love notes that when many post-menopausal women quit taking hormone replacement therapy after studies indicated a cancer link, there was an 8 percent drop in breast cancer the following year.

And it could be that cells in the tumor are not the key cells, that instead there’s a “queen bee” cancer stem cell that survives elsewhere and continues to replicate. That could indicate chemotherapy isn’t all that effective.

“It’s like killing all those terrorists and missing Osama bin Laden.”

Love also covered the variety of drugs to treat cancer, noting that benefits of taking Tamoxifen or aromatose inhibitors for three to five years will last 15 years. In Europe, researchers are looking at best effect with the least amount of drugs – and in premenopausal women, removing their ovaries is just as effective as chemo in hormone positive cases.

There’s progress on tests that will determine earlier exactly what kind of tumor one has with treatment tailored to that type.

But Love is most enthused about attempts to prevent cancer, along the lines of the HPV vaccine.

“My 19-year-old daughter is being vaccinated for cancer of the cervix,” she said. “My sister had a hysterectomy.”

Love says recent research indicates that all breast cancer starts in the milk ducts. She and others are looking for a way to create something like a breast pap smear that would test cells in fluid taken from the breast.

“We’ve tried to find the smoking gun for breast cancer for some time.”

Tests in rats have shown small amount of chemo injected in breast ducts prevents cancer altogether. Such treatment is being tested on women in China.

“I think it’s like Drano, it sort of cleans out all the junk in the ducts.” she said.

She’s also working on a “dipstick” test in china to figure out who’s at risk for breast cancer – a Band-Aid type thing that would change colors if a woman is at risk, resulting in more testing. She notes that in China, most women diagnosed with breast cancer are premenopausal.

“We can be the generation that stops breast cancer,” Love concluded. “It just takes the energy and the will. We’re gonna do it!”

The Home State

It’s on the front page of the New York Times today: Colo, Iowa.

We grew up down the road from Colo, in Collins. We weren’t big fans of Colo; we were big rivals. When i was in college, i was prided myself in once peeing on a side street next to a truck in Colo after a night out at the one bar.

Of course, back then they actually had a bar with bands playing. And nowadays they have a diner, which is one of the places Obama was campaigning.

If he went to my hometown, the place to meet up with people would be the machine shed at our neighbor’s house. He started heating the shed and serving coffee every morning when the local convenience store closed a year or so ago.

I’m sure dad will call me when Obama shows up there!