Category: Research

Post about new “Blood” study from Margaret’s blog

I wanted to share this link with my readers, because it’s an important discussion about cure vs control and other aspects of myeloma treatment or management.

http://margaret.healthblogs.org/2011/08/02/the-cure-versus-control-debate-a-new-blood-study/

Please read it and let me know what you think.  I’ve long thought I probably should have held off on treatment for as long as possible, and my post-SCT strategy is to stay treatment free for as long as possible. I expect to withhold treatment until symptoms affect QOL.

Ferarro was concerned that only some can afford cancer treatment

This was done in 2007, when Ms. Ferarro was in remission. She expressed concern in this video about the fact that drugs that allowed her to stay alive were not available for all. This continues to be the case. Unless you have a lot of money or good insurance, you may not be able to get the treatment many of us count on to keep us among the living. In this video, she’s getting Velcade and talks about research and funding.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

MMRF Press Release – Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Mourns Loss of Geraldine Ferraro

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Mourns Loss of Geraldine Ferraro

Pioneer, Leader, and MMRF Honorary Board Member Succumbs to Multiple Myeloma
Norwalk, CT — March 26, 2011

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is deeply saddened by the loss of Geraldine Ferraro (1935-2011), a Member of the MMRF Honorary Board of Directors and a dear friend. Ferraro passed away this morning from complications following a long and courageous battle with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

“Geraldine Ferraro was a true trailblazer, an inspiration to many, an incredible advocate for cancer research, and a very dear friend. She will be sadly missed, never far from our hearts, and fondly remembered for her incredible legacy and the extraordinary woman who she was. We pray that her family finds comfort and peace during this sorrowful time,” said Kathy Giusti, Founder and CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and a patient with multiple myeloma.

In addition to serving on the MMRF’s Honorary Board of Directors, Ferraro was actively involved in the Foundation’s work to bring new treatments to patients. In 2002, she passionately testified before Congress for the critical need for increased research funding, and a year later, a bill was signed authorizing $250 million for blood cancer research. Congress then appropriated $5 million to the Geraldine Ferraro Blood Cancer Education Program in 2003 and renewed funding in 2006, enabling the MMRF to provide high-quality educational programs to underserved populations.

About Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer. The five-year relative survival rate for multiple myeloma is approximately 38 percent, one of the lowest of all cancers. In 2010, more than 20,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma and nearly 11,000 people are predicted to die from the disease.

About the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF)
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) was established in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti, soon after Kathy’s diagnosis with multiple myeloma. The mission of the MMRF is to relentlessly pursue innovative means that accelerate the development of next-generation multiple myeloma treatments to extend the lives of patients and lead to a cure. As the world’s number-one private funder of multiple myeloma research, the MMRF has raised over $160 million since its inception to fund more than 130 laboratories worldwide. An outstanding 89% of funds raised go toward research and related programming. The MMRF has supported 70 new compounds and approaches in clinical trials and pre-clinical studies and has facilitated 30 clinical trials through its sister organization, the MMRC. For more information about the MMRF, visit www.themmrf.org.

Media inquiries, contact:

Anne Quinn Young – (203) 536-8691

International Myeloma Foundation’s 3rd Annual Comedy Celebration for the Peter Boyle Memorial Fund

Ray Romano hosted the IMF’s third annual Comedy Celebration for the Peter Boyle Memorial Fund a few days ago. I’m so glad to see the IMF getting these big names to help raise money for research. Every life lost to myeloma is an important one, which is why these people are giving their time and lending their names to this cause. Read more at www.myeloma.org.

I really respect and admire the people at the IMF.  I’ve been to three of the patient and family seminars and recommend them to anyone I meet who has myeloma or cares for someone with myeloma.  I hope you’ll make a contribution so the IMF can find a cure and continue to educate patients and their families.

Green tea polyphenols block the anticancer effects of bortezomib and other boronic acid-based proteasome inhibitors

This caught my eye because I’ve been on Velcade before and never gave a second thought to whether or not I should not be consuming green tea/green tea products.

Blood First Edition Paper, prepublished online February 3, 2009; DOI 10.1182/blood-2008-07-171389.

Submitted July 28, 2008
Accepted January 12, 2009

Encouse B. Golden, Philip Y. Lam, Adel Kardosh, Kevin J. Gaffney, Enrique Cadenas, Stan G. Louie, Nicos A. Petasis, Thomas C. Chen, and Axel H. Schonthal*

Department of Pathology, University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine (KSOM), Los Angeles, CA, United States
Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology, USC School of Pharmacy (SoP), Los Angeles, CA, United States
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, USC KSOM, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Department of Chemistry, USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy, USC SoP, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Department of Neurosurgery, USC KSOM, Los Angeles, CA, United States

* Corresponding author; email: schontha@usc.edu.

The anticancer potency of green tea and its individual components is being intensely investigated, and some cancer patients already self-medicate with this ‘miracle herb’ in hopes of augmenting the anticancer outcome of their chemotherapy. Bortezomib (Velcade®) is a proteasome inhibitor in clinical use for multiple myeloma. Here, we investigated whether the combination of these compounds would yield increased antitumor efficacy in multiple myeloma and glioblastoma cell lines in vitro and in vivo. Unexpectedly, we discovered that various green tea constituents, in particular (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and other polyphenols with 1,2-benzenediol moieties, effectively prevented tumor cell death induced by bortezomib in vitro and in vivo. This pronounced antagonistic function of EGCG was only evident with boronic acid-based proteasome inhibitors (bortezomib, MG-262, PS-IX), but not with several non-boronic acid proteasome inhibitors (MG-132, PS-I, nelfinavir). EGCG directly reacted with bortezomib and blocked its proteasome inhibitory function; as a consequence, bortezomib could not trigger endoplasmic reticulum stress or caspase-7 activation, and did not induce tumor cell death. Taken together, our results indicate that green tea polyphenols may have the potential to negate the therapeutic efficacy of bortezomib and suggest that consumption of green tea products may be contraindicated during cancer therapy with bortezomib.

Exciting Multiple Myeloma Data at ASH

This is from a reader.

Subject: Exciting Multiple Myeloma Data at ASH

Message: Hi Beth,
Here are some data highlights from The 50th Annual American Society
of Hematology (ASH) Meeting this week:

  • Updated results from the ECOG study evaluating Revlimid plus low-dose dexamethasone in newly diagnosed patients was presented by Dr. Rajkumar in a joint symposium of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and ASH.  The results are the highest 3 year overall survival rates ever reported in this patient group.
  • Data presented by Dr. San Miguel showed that relapsed/refractory patients who received continuous treatment with Revlimid and dexamethasone after achieving their best response lived longer and had increased time to disease progression compared to those who discontinued treatment after ten months or less.
  • Dr. Lacy presented data which showed that pomalidomide with dexamethasone has promising activity for patients with relapsed/refractory MM.   Results from this ongoing trial showed high remission rates.

Best,
Allison

Thalidomide, Celgene and the High Cost of Staying Alive

By Dennis Hemus

Many Multiple Myeloma patients have been damaged by the high cost of drug treatment and worse some do not receive treatment at all because of cost. The following is a brief summary of how I came to intimately know the drug Thalidomide and the journey it has taken me on.
I was diagnosed early in 2001 at the age of 54 and underwent an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant that summer. The result was fantastic. Life with my family was back to normal and my recovery was so complete I could play hockey, backpack and do physical work as I did pre MM. I was the happiest guy in town.
The cancer slowly gained another foot hold and in January of 2005 I had a second SCT but that one did not work and I was in trouble! My Calgary Oncologist suggested that I try Thalidomde. (In Canada procedures like SCT’s are covered so there is no serious treatment cost to the patients but when it comes to drugs that can be a different matter.)
I clearly remember asking my Oncologist, Dr. Stewart, “What does this drug cost” and he sort of grimaced and said, “it is kind of expensive……… it will cost you around $3000 a month”. I just about fell off my chair and asked him to confirm that this was the same basic thalidomide that caused horrific birth defects back in the 60’s. How in the world could an old drug like that cost thousands of dollars? As it turned out, my Doctor was wrong as the drug cost more that $4,000 per month. Fortunately for me, while I was being treated in the Province of Alberta I am a resident of British Columbia and The British Columbia Cancer Agency was the last Provincial body in Canada to cover the cost of the drug, so my Thalomid was funded. (Due to the escalating cost of the drug the Agency no longer covers Thalomid for new MM patients but does pay for those on the shrinking list that have been grandfathered in)
The price of this drug simply did not make sense to me. I could clearly remember that the gas I pumped in high school, back in 1966, cost 40 cents per gallon and I wondered what did Thalidomide cost then……maybe at most just a few dollars for a prescription.  I contacted the Pharmacy of the B.C. Cancer Agency looking for historical pricing which they could not provide past June of 2000 but what I learned was absolutely stunning and left me with the instant opinion that something was very wrong with this picture. Hence, I committed to do what I could to expose and help correct the situation. I will leave you to form your own conclusions but these are the historical facts.
Note: All prices are in USD and a bottle contains thirty 50 mg. capsules. June 2000: $98.40. January 2002: $210:00. May 2003: $363.00. November 2003: $592.50. April 2005: $898.50. Note: The Cancer Agency does not add a dispensing fee or up charges so the prices quoted above is what the Agency or patients of the Agency paid Celgene for the Drug. Prices increased over 800% in less than five years.
I quickly learned that thalidomide was available in other countries at fractional prices. For example, the drug is currently (January, 2008) available at Serral Laboratories in Mexico for a cost of $90 for 50, 100 mg capsules so a typical 200 mg. dose would costs $3.60 / day and just last week an acquaintance (not an MM sufferer) had a prescription for Thalidomide filled in India and that drug cost her $5.60 for a 200 mg. dose. (Courier and Bank charges included) Compare the 2005 Celgene price for that same dose and you will see it cost $119.30 / day. I wondered if Canadians alone were being charged excessively high prices but learned that people in the United States were also facing the same outlandish costs.
It struck me that the best way to expose the matter was to contact the media. I assumed when the public and elected representatives found out what was going on the proverbial poop would hit the fan. Early in 2005 The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail and my town’s local paper all did excellent articles focusing on the extreme cost of this long Orphaned drug. Global Television sent a crew to my home in Windermere, B.C. and a story aired on Global National evening news. Later CBC regional radio interviewed Health Canada looking for answers. I’m sure the facts presented by the media caused people to shake their heads but nothing changed.
My letters and extensive support materials sent to the former and current Minister of Health expressing concerns about the outrageous pricing received little consideration. Direct questions were not answered and crafted “say nothing” replies were all I got back from Ottawa. The whole effort left me frustrated and a bit cynical but recent events suggest there may be hope for a little justice. This is what we know.
Celgene has been bringing Thalidomide (Thalomid) into Canada under the Special Access Program since 1995. Currently, Health Canada does not have the authority to require the company to make a new drug submission and file a Notice of Compliance. HC has repeatedly encouraged Celgene to do so they have not co-operated. Why not? The answer is clear. If the drug followed the usual channels a new drug submission and NOC would have been filed and without patent protection, a generic form of the drug could be made and competition would bring the price down.
If a drug is patented it comes under the jurisdiction of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board whether it comes into Canada under SAP or if the Company files a Notice of Compliance, the PMPRB has jurisdiction. Celgene maintained that the PMPRB did not have jurisdiction over SAP drugs but the board ruled on January 21, 2008 that it does have jurisdiction and that has important implications.
Celgene received a patent for the drug on April 4th, 2006.
It seems clear to me that Celgene believes it can charge what ever it wants for the drug and did not want the price reviewed by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board because that board may determine that the price is too high, according to the board’s Excessive Price Guidelines, and require the company to bring the price down. Also, that board can require a company that has over charged for a drug to refund money to the Crown (government) and that money may in turn, be returned to the Provinces, medical plans and maybe even to individuals. It is curious that the price had been hiked to the current peak level in 2005. Celgene would know of the PMPRB and maybe they thought the board would only look at the drug price post patent date. (April 4, 2006)
In my opinion Celgene has clearly over charged and they deserve to have their finger slapped in a big way. (If readers wish to read the current judgement and related laws I will be pleased to offer directions to online sources.
Companies like Celgene often try to justify profits by claiming that they plow most of their gains back into Research and Development but you know that does not wash. The former CEO Mr. Jackson rode off into the sunset with tens of millions of dollars gained from Celgene stock options.
Celgene discriminates against Cancer patents. They have charged one price for thalidomide when it was used for AIDS but a much higher price when the drug is used for Cancer. The company has been blatant about its discriminatory practices as the follow quotations demonstrate. “When we launched it, it was going to be an AIDS-wasting drug,” says Celgene’s chief executive, John Jackson. “We couldn’t charge more or there would have been demonstrations outside the company.” (When Celgene Corp. got its first drug approved, it priced a 50-milligram capsule at $6) “After new information suggested the drug helped treat MM, Mr. Jackson said he felt justified in increasing the price because the drug had gained value-it appears to help cancer patients in addition to those with AIDS”.  In Canada, and in most places around the world, discrimination is not condoned or accepted.
Please understand, I am very thankful for the drug and one of the many that are living proof  that thalidomide is an effective short term treatment for Myeloma but that does not change the facts of the matter and that is: Celgene has been taking advantage of us by over charging.
Revlimid, the analog drug of thalidomide, is priced much higher compared to Thalomid and again the company charges excessive prices because they can. They seem to see MM patients as a captive market and act without conscience. The truth is MM patients are a captive market and we essentially just have the big bomb drugs, Velcade and Thalidomide/Revlimid for treatment of our disease. Each drug company wants to stay price competitive with the other but usually we associate competition with bargains or at least fair pricing. In this case we have the companies competing to see if they are pricing their drug as high as the other and they talk of market share in their investment literature as if they were selling buttons instead of life extending drugs. What happened to making something that helps people and making a reasonable profit? Keep in mind Celgene simply found a new application for the old drug Thalidomide and while they did have huge expenses to test and gain approvals for the drug this does not justify charging what they do.
People in the United States are being exploited too. I do not exactly understand what gives Celgene the market protection that they enjoy but it seems to boil down to the STEPS program. It took me almost three years to fully understand the whys and the wherefores of the situation in Canada and I expect that the same careful positioning for profit also exists South of the Canadian border. Celgene seems to enjoy unique market protection in New Zealand, Australia and other countries and I do not know exactly why.
So what to do? In Canada it seems clear that we should pressure our elected representative to influence the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the appeal case between the Patented Medicine Pricing Review Board and Celgene. Nine months have passed since it was ruled that the PMPRB had jurisdiction. Celgene appealed that decision and that court case has not even been scheduled. In the mean time Celgene continues to rack up huge profits. I truly hope that President Obama will keep his word and investigate big drug companies. It seems clear to me that Celgene and the case of Thalidomide is a very clear example of how big drug companies take advantage of captive, dependent people. This is the worst form of gouging. To date the Canadian Government has done next to nothing concerning this issue. It is my hope that the new Minister of Health will do something.

Have you used thalidomide?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

ConsumerInformant has written more from personal experience on this blog. His mother has taken thalidomide.

Please comment on your own experiences.

Cancer survival rates impact type of Web communities used by patients

By Corrie Feldkamp
UMHS Public Relations

Online support communities for high survival rate cancers contain a greater amount of emotional support content than online support communities for cancers with low survival rates, according to a new study from the U-M Health System (UMHS) and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The researchers also found that support communities for low survival rate cancers contain a greater amount of informational support content than online support communities for high survival rate cancers.

“Online communities have become an important resource for individuals seeking emotional and informational social support related to cancer,” says senior author Dr. Caroline Richardson, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UMHS.

The study — led by Lorraine Buis, a postdoctoral research fellow at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System — assessed differences in emotional and informational social support content in online communities for cancers with high and low survival rates.

The researchers also found that, overall, emotional support was more prevalent than informational support across all communities and all types of cancers.

Both emotional and informational support widely is available within online communities for cancer, but not all of these sites are created equally, Buis says.

“When primary care providers refer individuals to online communities for support, they should be aware that there might be differing amounts of support based on the survival rare of a particular cancer,” she says. Buis also explains that not only are such online communities for patients, “but they help family and friends cope with the struggles that cancer presents.”

Until Richardson’s and Buis’s most recent study, there had been no previous research on the influence of patients’ cancer survival rates on social support content within online support communities for cancer.

Participants in this study all were reviewed under the same time period, were online community members who participated in online support communities for four different types of cancer — lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma — and participated in eight different online communities in the investigation.

The study was presented last week at the annual meeting of the North American Primary Care Research Group. In addition to Buis and Richardson, Pamela Whitten of Michigan State University also was an author of the study.

http://www.ur.umich.edu/0809/Nov24_08/25.php?print