Review of “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Review of 'The Gene: An Intimate History' by Siddhartha MukherjeeI’ve been looking forward to reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s latest book, “The Gene: An Intimate History”, since it was published last year.

His Pulitzer prize-winning “The Emperor of All Maladies” is one of the most interesting and informative books about cancer that I’ve read. In addition, now that genome sequencing and other forms of genetic testing are becoming more accessible and more common, I hoped this new book would provide some insights about where we are in all of this and what we might realistically expect from more expansive genetic testing in the years to come.

The implications of what has been learned about the gene and what it means for future generations are very personal for Mukherjee, as he reveals in sharing the stories of several family members who have been affected by mental illness. He comes back to these stories and how they relate to our growing understanding of the biology of inherited disease risk at various times in the book. Continue reading

How Could a Blood Test Be Used Soon in Breast Cancer Care?

Can we detect breast cancer with a blood test or liquid biopsy?We’ve heard a lot in the news over the last year about how researchers are working to develop a blood test to detect cancer, sometimes referred to as a “liquid biopsy”.

What should we make of all this? A blood test, whether for early detection or to aid in treatment and monitoring, would be a wonderful development. But how close are we really?

As I headed to San Antonio for the annual Breast Cancer Symposium in December, I wondered what we might hear there about progress toward a liquid biopsy for breast cancer. I’ve shared some highlights from the Symposium in a recent post. In this post, I’ll share my impressions from the Symposium on where things stand with work toward a liquid biopsy for breast cancer. Continue reading

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness

Cancer "awareness" includes advocating for appropriate levels of funding so real progress can be made against this set of diseases.Since 1999, the month of September has been designated as Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM). The goals of GCAM each year have included educating women about the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers as well as factors that increase risk for these types of cancer.

This September has particular significance for me and my family. It was at about this time 40 years ago that my mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was only 50 years old at the time.

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San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2014: Where Is Research Headed?

The 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium highlighted potential new treatment strategies that are opening up as a result of advances in understanding of cancer biology.Innovative new approaches to breast cancer treatment that were featured at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium could eventually have a big impact on the way breast cancer is treated.

Potential new treatment strategies are opening up as a result of recent advances in knowledge of cancer biology as well as improved understanding of how our immune system functions.  Technological advances are playing a big role too. Continue reading

Cancer Genome Studies: How Will They Help Patients?

DNA strand against a colored backgroundA new set of findings from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project was published recently, in the October 16, 2013 issue of the journal Nature.

Previous reports from this large ongoing project have shown that tumor cells for individual cancer types, such a breast cancer, colon cancer, etc. sometimes contain many more types of genetic mutations than was previously  known.

By contrast, this new report looks at cancer genome sequencing in a different way–comparing mutations across types of cancer. 

Overall, TCGA has been generating interesting, though somewhat controversial, findings. Continue reading