Cancer Today—Winter Issue 2012-2013

The Winter issue of Cancer Today is now available.

I encourage you to take a look at the stories covered in Forward Look, which I developed and edited. It includes stories on genetic ancestry, the link between childhood obesity and adult cancer risk, lung cancer’s stigma and the role of patient navigators, and more.

This issue also includes my article “Missing the Mark,” which continues my exploration into cancer clinical trials. Many people are not aware that only one-third of new cancer therapies or drug combinations tested in phase III clinical trials prove to be better than the standard of care. This article explores why—and how researchers are aiming to improve the odds.

Missing the Mark

If you are a person who likes to gamble, the Super Bowl may be the event for you. Some Vegas oddsmakers have correctly predicted 16 of the last 21 winners—a 75 percent success rate. 

Even so, odds are just that: odds. Time after time the team that just can’t lose does. In the wake of such upsets, sports announcers typically turn to clichés like “misplaced expectations” and “false hopes.”

 Similar platitudes are often heard when a large phase III clinical trial falls short—when a therapy or drug combination that companies have often spent hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade developing doesn’t do better than the current standard of care, or does even worse. The difference, however, is that cancer is not a game. Read more

[Note: Special thanks to Larry and Scott for their deadline oddsmaker insights.]

The Winter issue also includes my interview with Margareta Timofti, the new first lady of Moldova. Timofti is committed to lowering her country’s cancer death rates, and she and I spoke (through a translator) while she was in San Francisco on an educational mission sponsored by the Institute of International Education.

Q&A  Gaining the Benefits of Early DetectionWhen Nicolae Timofti was elected president of Moldova by the country’s parliament in March 2012, his wife, Margareta Timofti, rose to international prominence as well. As the country’s new first lady, Timofti intends to use her position to draw attention to women’s health issues—in particular, the thousands of deaths that could be prevented through cancer screening programs.​ Her work will not be easy. Moldova, which is about the size of Maryland and is home to nearly 4 million people, is one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe. The parliamentary vote that brought her husband to office followed nearly three years of deadlock between Moldova’s ruling, pro-Western Alliance for European Integration and the opposition Communist Party. Even so, since 2009, with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, the country has been taking steps toward implementing its first national comprehensive cancer program. Timofti’s work can build on this foundation. Read more

This issue is also special to me because In the Moment includes this lovely photograph of my friend Julia, who was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in 2010. Julia and I first met in the early 1980, when we worked at the UCSD Food Coop selling fruit, vegetables and other new-fangled organic goodies. We’re both still organically inclined, but now we talk about kids, college, new restaurants—and cancer.

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