Personalized Approaches in the Treatment of Head & Neck Cancers (P.A.T.H.) - In partnership with Jess and Ramona Ketchum
As I write this, I am digesting the results of my nine-month scans, tests, and consultations after seven weeks of daily radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and a bit of surgery to put the boots to cancer.
In my case it was Squamous Cell Carcinoma, caused by the HPV virus, which resulted in a tumour under my tongue. Unfortunately, my symptoms mirrored sinus issues and because of the lockdown, the wait for diagnosis resulted in the tumour being large and having spread to several lymph nodes. This news came as quite a shock to Ramona and me and especially since I always considered myself somewhat invincible. Disproved that in spectacular fashion!
So, the results! Nine months following treatment and NO cancer. I still face some trying aftereffects that will continue for some time. Losing 70 pounds didn’t hurt much, but losing my sense of taste, smell, balance, energy and ability to swallow all took a toll. The treatment also impacted my voice as the radiation reoriented the operation of my tongue somewhat. My team at BC Cancer have me working on all sorts of exercises and regimes to rectify all of these aftereffects. Ramona and I cannot overstate our thanks for BC Cancer! We are indeed fortunate as approximately 35% of patients with my diagnosis do not recover.
Having spent years on the BC Cancer Foundation Board, three as its Chair, I had the benefit of being very familiar with and confidence in the extraordinary excellence of BC Cancer. That confidence was only turbo-boosted by my cancer experience. While I have a very long list of individuals at BC Cancer to whom I owe a great deal including doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, and administrators I must single out the doctors who were primarily responsible for my care. I cannot heap enough praise on Drs. Scott Durham, Eric Tran, Janessa Laskin and Sarah Hamilton. Don’t get me started on the extraordinary value of nurses and nurse practitioners who I saw every day and who kept my spirits up and sent me home every day with lots of positivity. My angels!
It was during my discussions with Dr. Laskin that I initially learned of the great need for more head and neck cancer research. Virtually everyone has been exposed to the HPV virus. It resulted in cancer with me while it does not with others. Why?
The most common treatments are radiation and surgery and while this is successful in many people it is not with others. In fact, tumours in some have grown while under treatment. Why?
Some tumours are radiation resistant. Why?
Some experience a recurrence post treatment. Why?
There are so many such questions that demand answers. I am so pleased and proud to say that my oncologists and others are partnering with Dr. Marco Marra at the Genome Sciences Centre (GSC) to apply Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) to find those answers.
This unique study, Personalized Approaches in the Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers (PATH), will select patients in BC diagnosed with Head & Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma who are starting on treatment. They will have their cancer genes sequenced at time of diagnosis and again if the cancer reoccurs. This will allow the team to compare cancers that are sensitive versus resistant to treatment.
This is a first in the world as BC Cancer is uniquely situated with the technology and scientific expertise to do this work. If we can identify patients who will not respond to standard treatment, we have the opportunity to choose different, potentially more effective treatment courses. This in-depth sequencing information can also shed light on some key differences between cancers caused by viruses versus non-viral cancers. In these days of COVID, the more we understand about viruses the better we will be prepared to face the future. PATH is truly cutting-edge scientific research and will have a global impact on cancer treatment.
The BC Cancer Foundation is embarking on a campaign to raise $1.5 million to fund this research over two years. Ramona and I are making an initial gift of $100,000 to help the project on its way and we would ask that you consider joining us in this exciting and important project that promises to save many lives.
If you would like to join us in supporting this incredibly important work, please:
- Click 'Donate Now' (above) to donate online
- Address a cheque to 'BC Cancer Foundation', write 'PATH' in the memo line, and mail to:
BC Cancer Foundation
#150-686 West Broadway
Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 1G1
Attention: Sandi London
- To make a donation in $USD (copy and paste this link): https://bccancerfoundation.com/path-usd
- Consider making a gift of shares (copy and paste this link): https://bccancerfoundation.com/ways-to-give/more-ways-to-give/gifts-of-securities/
- For any further information, please contact Sandi London at firstname.lastname@example.org
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