Lots of talk about cures

The last couple of days, with ESPN’s annual ESPY awards show on the schedule, there was lots of talk on the sports radio and television about looking for cures for cancer. Since the ESPYs are held, along with a lot of other events, to benefit the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, the talk makes a lot of sense.

For me, as I listen to the tear-jerking features and hear doctors and researchers talking about strides being made in the fight against cancer, I find myself balancing this information with the regular flow of information I receive regarding treatment advances for Multiple Myeloma.

I get a daily update email from Google that basically gives me links to web pages that have been added or updated and respond to a search for the term “myeloma.” I get a bunch of links to obits … that’s not good. There are plenty of items about fund raisers and fun runs that are being held to benefit a myeloma patient. And there are many links to blogs written by myeloma patients or their caregivers.

What I get most of, however, is links to articles, press releases and reports from medical and pharmaceutical interests outlining new treatment options and new drugs/novel agents that are being developed or introduced or made available for the treatment of multiple myeloma. There’s a lot going on in this arena. New drugs are coming on line that claim to offer improved results for all types of myeloma patients, newly diagnosed, relapsed, refractory, relapsed/refractory, high-risk, etc. For every one of these new drugs … proteasone inhibitors, immune-modifying, monoclonal antibodies … information is provided about how long the drug (or combination of drugs) can be expected to extend life (in months) versus other treatments or no treatments.

Never, within this steady flow of information that is viewed as positive, does the word “cure” come into play. Don’t get me wrong, seeing that a new drug is likely to give a myeloma patient nine more months of survival or continued remission IS good news. And the research and testing and focus that goes into developing these new drugs obviously increases the overall knowledge about myeloma and, in theory, moves us closer to a cure.

I get some optimism from thinking that somewhere in the world, a researcher or team of researchers, is working feverishly on some theory that suggests a cure is just around the corner.

I get a sour taste of cynicism when I think that these new drugs, with their HUGE price tags, might pave a pretty profitable path for pharmaceutical companies who have a very captive market and insurance companies willing to pay the tab. I’d absolutely hate to find out that the emphasis was steered away from a cure and toward life-extending drugs due to profit motive.

Other cancers are different, I know. Cures are within reach and research is vital. Either way, don’t talk a lot about a cure for myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a “manageable” cancer. And the advances we’re seeing help us to manage longer. And maybe we manage long enough that a cure does come about.