Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Durability of Dandelions

It turns out the idea of cancer being fed from a stem cell like source is over 100 years old. Several years ago, like many of you, I heard the cancer stem cell phenomenon described using a dandelion analogy. Anyone who doesn't use herbicides knows you can mow down dandelions every week and they just pop right back up. If the soil is bad or the root stock is weak it might take a while, but eventually it regrows. There has been enough research done over the past several years to confirm with reasonable certainty that myeloma behaves in a similar fashion. There is a root stock (cancer stem cell) that eventually regrows a new weed (myeloma tumor). There are only a few agents that target the root stock. There are many that attack the weed above ground. Sort of like the difference between the number of lawn mowers models versus the number of broad leaf only herbicides. GRN163L happens to targets the root stock. As a single agent the therapy doesn't do much to the weed or tumor burden so all the conventional monitoring tools are not very useful measures of the drugs effectiveness.

Well guess what? By all normal standards of measure I have stable disease after 12 weeks of GRN163L. There has been no statistically significant trend in M-spike, IgG lambda expression, CRP, or Beta-2. My blood counts have continued to slowly go down which was expected and will probably be the limiting side effect. The anemia related fatigue is the only issue I really notice besides the psychological babble associated with weekly infusions. I certainly obsess about every tweak, tingle and sensation but that is a pretty normal cancer Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

May was a great month. I took off for a few weeks to the Oregon coast. The OCD gladly receded giving way to glorious vacation. I got to commune with wonderful friends, family and some pretty amazing trees. Not to mention the Pacific Ocean and countless birds and the absolutely amazing blooms of late spring. I got a week off GRN and boy was it wonderful. Now I'm looking forward to a wonderful summer frolicking in Western New York.