ORACLE February 2019 Working Copy


Richard J. Frink, MD Retired Cardiologist, 12 year ORPS Owner

I hope everyone here at ORPS took notice of the Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded during October 2018. Two investigators were awarded the prize for a new approach to cancer treatment that harnessed the immune system to specifically target and destroy the cancer cells without damaging normal tissue. The progress is truly astounding. Cancer is one of our most dreaded diseases. We all know X-RAY and chemotherapy are often successful in helping patients, but rarely result in a cure. My nephew, a salmon fisherman in Alaska, came to Seattle about 8 years ago to get treatment for a cancer of the throat. Cancers of the head and neck are difficult because they spread early to other parts of the body. He was asked to enter a double blind study testing a new experimental drug that involved the immune system similar to the Nobel prize. In studies of this kind the patient doesn’t know whether they are getting the experimental drug or a placebo (a sugar pill). As it happened he received the experimental drug “Erbitux” and is alive and cancer free today. These drugs are known as “monoclonal antibodies” and they focus specifically on targeting the abnormal cancer cell similar to the way our body will fight off an infection with a bacteria or virus like polio vaccine. A second case is that of former President Jimmy Carter. He developed metastatic cancer, meaning his melanoma cancer had spread to both his liver and his brain. He also entered a study and received a drug called “Keytruda.” Keytruda is a drug that makes use of the immune system and is currently advertised on TV. President Carter is alive and well some 5 years after he was found to have metastatic (spread) cancer to the brain and liver. He is currently cancer free and very active. These two drugs, Erbitux and Keytruda, are not effective in everyone and some patients have serious side effects. Whoever thought this was going to be easy. The main message here is cancer treatment is undergoing a major shift as investigators work with the immune system.

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