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.


Anonymous said...


Good to hear you are feeling pretty good about the GRN163L treatment. You had me worried when your last post was a month ago and hadn't heard from you til now.
You mentioned being glad to be off 163 for week. Did the fatigue go away that quickly?
Since your symptoms are now stable it sounds like that is an obvious change of your disease progression prior to 163L. Is that true?
Hang in there and post when you can, they are very informative and encouraging.

Sunshine said...

Good to see you are there... Best wishes for your wonderful summer.

Margaret said...

I have been meaning to leave you a comment but time flies past and suddenly it's dinnertime! ;-)
Anyway, I wanted to mention how thrilled I am at your good results from this trial. Too bad about the anaemia...perhaps, if you are not a vegetarian (I forget), you could eat some rare red meat accompanied by a salad with lots of lemon juice. Vitamin C, I was told, helps us absorb more iron from food.
I sometimes get OCD, too. Probably quite common among myeloma folks. We should go off on holiday more often, eh! :-) Like you, when I was in Northumberland (UK), I forgot about myeloma and felt fabulous!
I check your blog every day. Keep on posting! This was a good one. I am super interested in the myeloma stem cell business, too.
Florence, Italy