Breaking the Blood-Brain Barrier

During the past five years, oncologists have reported an uptick in cancer patients with brain metastases—and it’s not clear why. I explored the impact of this development in my feature story “Breaking the Blood-Brain Barrier” in the Fall 2015 issue of Cancer Today.

Here’s an excerpt:

As the calendar turned to September 2014, Leslie Falduto was feeling at the top of her game. The cancer survivor was running six miles, three days a week. Her oncologist had recently told her she was doing great. And at work, Falduto, a registered nurse, was returning to her favorite post, the neonatal intensive care unit.

BrainMets_175x175Talking about her diagnosis of stage III breast cancer in September 2008 still made her feel anxious. But in the world of cancer, five-year survival is one of those measures that is supposed to make you think, OK, maybe now I can pop the champagne. And Falduto, a mother of two from St. Paul, Texas, has passed that marker the year before. 

But on Sept. 7, when she went to leave the neonatal unit, an odd thing happened. “I couldn’t remember how to open a door,” recalls Falduto, 38. After that, “I couldn’t remember how to walk.” Her right leg started shaking uncontrollably. Then, she passed out. When she awoke, Falduto was in the emergency room, where she was told she’d had a seizure. A neurosurgeon requested an MRI. The scan revealed a tumor the size of a pingpong ball—metastasized breast cancer–deep in her brain.

Read the full story.

Elmer Huerta: A Champion for Prevention

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Dr. Elmer Huerta is the founder of the Cancer Preventiorium, a cancer prevention clinic specifically for Latino immigrants. Since opening its doors in the mid-1990s at the Washington Cancer Institute in Washington, DC, the Preventorium has served close to 33,000 people.

How did the Cancer Preventorium get started?
While Dr. Huerta was at the National Cancer Institute, he started a radio show, Cuidando su Salud (Taking Care of Your Health), and as his show became more popular, he was asked to provide cancer prevention presentations at Latino churches and community centers. In these settings, women frequently shared their frustrations about having to go to one doctor for a Pap test, another for a colorectal cancer screening test and then yet another so their husband could have prostate cancer screening. They wanted everything in one place. Dr. Huerta thought they were on to something—and Washington Hospital agreed. “The interest of the community was so huge,” says Huerta, “we started then and haven’t stopped.”

Read more about the Cancer Preventorium in my interview with Dr. Huertra  in the Winter 2014/2015 Cancer Today.