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Cancer Research: What’s Ahead
This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
May 5, 1999. All rights reserved.
In the next decade, oncologists won’t just treat breast
cancer, they will try to use drugs to prevent it. And they will also
get involved in such psycho-social therapies as stress-relieving
and meditation. An in-depth daylong symposium "Breast Cancer:
Facing the New Millennium," will be Friday, May 7, from 8 a.m
to 3:30 p.m. at the Princeton Marriott in Forrestal Village. For $35
reservations, including continental breakfast and lunch, call
or 609-497-2100 or 215-349-8380.
"I think it is really interesting that the University of
offers to patients things that were considered alternative or
medicine — imagery, meditation, art, visualization, and music
therapy," says Jane Rodney, director of the Breast Cancer
Resource Center (BCRC) of the Princeton YWCA, sponsor of the annual
Each year the BCRC chooses a different leading research institute
as a co-sponsor: Fox Chase Cancer Center, the Cancer Institute of
New Jersey, and the Mercer Medical Center were previously selected.
This year the sponsors are the University of Pennsylvania Cancer
(UPCC) and hospitals associated with the University of Pennsylvania,
including the Capital Health System in Trenton. Another sponsor is
the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Network (UPCN).
Kevin R. Fox, an associate professor at the UPCC, will talk
about the impact of breast cancer, about how 44,000 women and 400
men will die of the disease this year, but that when breast cancer
is confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is over 95
percent. Angela DeMichelle, an instructor at the UPCC, will
cover what is new in breast cancer treatment.
"The big issue is where breast cancer prevention is right now
and where we are going with it," says M. Anne Blackwood,
assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at UPCC. In
the newest breast cancer prevention techniques and those in the
she will be joined by Daniel Fram, director of radiation
at the Capital Health System; Robert Goldberg of Shore Memorial
Hospital; Sten I. Kjellborg of Warren Hospital; and Kathleen
Toomey of Somerset Medical Center.
"For a long time oncologists were simply trying to figure out
how to treat cancer. But chemoprevention is brand new. If we can catch
cells that are on the way to becoming cancer cells that may be our
best approach," says Blackwood.
One study shows that there is an intervention that can decrease risk
for women who are at risk, but questions are left unanswered. "For
those genetically disposed to breast cancer we may want to think about
other options. The field is brand new and we have a long distance
to travel," she says.
"What is helping us to do that is our increasing understanding.
The molecular biologists are more able to explain it to us, and
are using the information and trying to develop early interventional
policies. With translational research — chemo prevention —
we take what we are learning in the laboratory and apply it as quickly
Blackwood’s own work involves a follow-up study on new uses for
Developed by Zeneca 20 years ago, Tamoxifen has long been used to
treat breast cancer, but it has just begun to be used for breast
prevention, says Blackwood. She is a principal investigator on that
study, but she is also working on one that uses Raloxifene, an Eli
Lilly drug that was approved in 1997 to treat osteoporosis, but will
now be tested for preventing breast cancer.
"Raloxifene was never studied for breast cancer treatment, but
in the osteoporosis studies, the women taking Raloxifene were getting
less breast cancer," says Blackwood. "Both Tamoxifen and
are medications of the same class." Both find the estrogen
and, in some tissues, prevent estrogen from doing its job, thus
cancer growth. Often, each drug behaves like the other.
On July 1 patients will have an opportunity to
in this Tamoxifen/Raloxifene study; they will be "randomized."
In other words, neither the patients nor their doctors will be told
which treatment they are receiving.
Participants in the May 7 seminar may also attend two of the five
afternoon workshops offered by staff members of the University of
Pennsylvania Cancer Center: "Managing Stress During Breast Cancer
Treatment," by Margaret Lazar, program director for
programs at UCCC: "Music and Imaging," by Brian Abrams,
director of music therapy; "Genetic Predisposition: Preventive
Options Kathleen Calzone and Jill Stopfer of the Cancer
Risk Evaluation Program; "Artmaking: an Interactive Experience,"
Gianna Volpe, artist in residence; and "Family History:
Who is at Risk?" Katrina Armstrong, assistant professor
"We will look at the different styles for coping for coping with
stress, and what happens to your emotions and your mind," says
Lazar, who graduated from the University of New South Wales in
in 1979. She has a master’s degree in social work from Rutgers and
a master’s in health administration from St. Joseph’s.
don’t change. People have a certain style of coping with stress, and
some have likened the diagnosis of breast cancer to the trauma of
a natural disaster. Sometimes they need to learn new coping
"We try to help patients to accept the stresses they can’t
says Lazar, "and to look at the balance in their life, at how
much energy is focused on the illness itself." Spending a lot
of energy on the illness may be appropriate during chemotherapy, but
at other times it is important to shift some of that energy to restore
Examples of imbalance: "Often someone with a life threatening
illness puts long-term decisions on hold and focuses on what is in
the immediate. That is appropriate during treatment, but in remission,
look at other areas of your family life — vacation, social
or returning to work."
"I’ve had some patients say I’ve learned to let the house go dirty
because it is not the most important thing. Or to sit with my kid
because they need it. To enjoy the things of today, not to worry about
the little things," says Lazar. "It changes priorities."
"No matter how much I see it in my work we all live with this
fantasy that cancer won’t affect us," says Lazar. She tells of
a girlfriend who had a 10-year battle with cancer but died, leaving
two little children. "I never thought I would go to her funeral;
it forces you to re-look at what’s important.
"When faced with the fact that you can’t control your future,
you need to consider what are the values that you hold, so you can
be true to them. And learn to let go of those things that you can’t
control." Her own method of dealing with such stress: "I
every single day, an hour a day."
— Barbara Fox
the New Millennium, Marriott, 609-497-2100. $35 including continental
breakfast and lunch. Friday, May 7, 8 to 3:30 p.m.
Commission on the Status of Women and the BCRC, are available
May 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 169 Wilfred Avenue, Hamilton. Fees
for uninsured women will be paid by sponsors. 609-989-6033 or
Women’s Health Center, Kuser Road, 609-599-5790. Free breast exam
by physician and low-cost ($40) mammogram are offered in May. Call
Women’s Breast Center, Mercer Campus, 446 Bellevue Avenue, Trenton,
609-394-4045. Breast examination and mammogram program held throughout
the month of May. Pre-register, $40.
Society at 3076 Princeton Pike. These complimentary Mother’s Day cards
can encourage a mother, a grandmother, sister, aunt, or friend to
get an annual mammogram. Call 609-895-0101.
Place, 609-497-2100. "Helping Children Cope When a Parent Has
Cancer," a workshop for parents with cancer, their partners, and
their children, ages 6-12. Thursday, May 6, 6 p.m.
breast cancer patients, with Steve Adubato. Saturday, May 8,
at 7:30 a.m., repeating Sunday, May 9, at 10 a.m. . Part II is
and Sunday, May 15 and 16.
Princeton BMW, 3466 Route 1, 609-452-9400. An all-day
event involves a fleet of 18 specially-marked silver and
BMWs. Thursday, June 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nancy Brinker established the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
in 1982 to honor the memory of her sister, who died from breast cancer
when she was 36 years old. This national organization has a network
of volunteers working to advance research, education, screening, and
The picture of a Princeton "Hero" will be put on one of the
cars to be signed by thousands of participants. As the drive
these photos will form a collage of what Brinker says will be "an
ever-growing collage of the real people who are making a difference
in each drive."
For a minimum donation of $5, participants can bring photographs,
pressed flowers, or other tokens that can be added to the banner,
and each will also receive a breast cancer ribbon pin. For every mile
that the cars are driven, BMW will donate $1 to the Komen Foundation.
The firm’s goal is raise $1 million this year. For information call
Princeton BMW at 609-452-9400 or go to http://www.komen.org
Breast Cancer Resource Center, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Route 206,
More than 7,000 runners and walkers, 1,000 children, plus breast
survivors, volunteers, and spectators help raise money for research.
Call to participate, volunteer, or sponsor. Sunday, October 10.
Corrections or additions?
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