Last week, I had my four month checkup with my oncologist. It's funny, I don't mention these much anymore because I figure everyone will say, "What? You still see her? Why?" But the truth is that I see her every four months. My next checkup from her will be in September, at which point I will be a THREE YEAR survivor.
And yes, I read what I write. I know that's no guarantee of anything. But life is good.
That little spot on my chest is still there but it hasn't changed at all and she affirmed again that it's nothing. My keloid (overgrowth of scar tissue from my port removal) is bothering me, so we decided that when I have my check up with the surgeon in July, I'll talk to her about having it removed. I can deal with it until then.
So since my appointment was kind of brief, I had to captivate her time by telling her about the NBCC conference. She shared an interesting point of view with me about research.
She said that AIDS research had a tremendous impact on the cancer world in two ways.
RNA is the working copy of the genetic blueprint. It is through RNA that a gene is translated into a protein. This intermediary RNA copy of a gene is called a gene's "message." Genetic information is transmitted from a cell to its progeny through a series of discrete and coordinated steps. First, genes, located in chromosomes, are duplicated when a cell divides and are transmitted into progeny cells. Next, a gene, in the form of DNA is converted into its RNA copy. Finally, this RNA message is translated into a protein. The protein, the ultimate product of genetic information, carries out the function encoded by the gene. (1)Retroviruses can mess with this one way street. A virus can attach itself to RNA and imprint backwards onto the DNA. HIV is a retrovirus, so investigating it involved learning even more about how cells work.
That work also benefited people like me directly because it was built upon to develop drugs like Herceptin. Dr. Slamon and his team learned that in this aggressive type of breast cancer, there is an over-expression of a type of protein, Her2neu that fuels the growth of the tumor. Herceptin works directly on those proteins.
Fran Visco, Herceptin trials were extended to more women.
So, the OncoDoc says... two huge advances in CancerLand didn't come directly from cancer research, but were the result of AIDS research. I think she makes a valid point that there are cross-pollination benefits to good research. I'm still mulling over how that fits into Monday's post, but I suspect it has to do with innovation. Maybe in September I'll talk to her again about it.
(1) Mukerjee, S. (2010). The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. New York: Scribner. p 346