Maine Patients and Researchers Fighting Cancer – Part 1 

World Cancer Day is Saturday February 4th.

Maine has one of the highest cancer rates in the nation.

But Mainers are battling cancer both as patients and researchers.

Cancer was once considered a death sentence, but because of research being done in our state and around the nation, Mainers have a fighting chance after being diagnosed with cancer.

“I just had a real bad cold and I couldn’t seem to shake it and I went to my family doctor and he took a blood test” said David Lincoln of Old Town. “And they found that it was high in proteins in my blood and the decided to look into it further and that is when they determined I had Multiple Myeloma.”

“We see quite a lot of cancer in our communities,” said Dr. Rodrigo Maegawa of EMMC. “Aand all we want to do is bring the best to our patients that unfortunately suffer from this terrible disease.”

For doctors and researchers, when they look closely at a sample, they are looking for a couple of clues.

“Even the fundamental of cancer is really two things,” said Dr. Edison Liu of The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. “The genetics and the cell and almost all cancers is based on perturbations or mutations of the genes in the cells that ultimately become cancer, so with the tools that we have, the genomic tools that are here at the Jackson Laboratory, we can literally use these tools as microscopes in defining the exact genetic abnormalities within the cancer cells.”

In 2014, David Lincoln and his wife were facing that diagnosis and at 63 years old, an uncertain future. “We sat down and had to really think about where we were headed and what we were going to do to try to plan ahead for what was going to happen, and not knowing what was going to happen was the worst part.”

EMMC Cancer Care now has a partnership with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute which opened up multiple treatment options including a being part of a clinical trial.

“So this is a great asset we are going to have in our community,” said Dr. Maegawa. “I mean, they don’t have to go all the way down to Boston. They can have access to a lot of the clinical trials right here in Brewer.”

“I’m not happy that I have it,” laughed Lincoln. “I am not happy that I have Multiple Myeloma, but now that I am in it, I’ve got probably the best care that I could possibly have. I mean, I can’t think of any other care that I could get that would be any better.”

“Our ability to understand everything that we need to know about cancers can be done today with the technologies that we have that has led us also in a whole new field of cancer immunology,” said Dr. Liu. “In this situation, it’s not taking a drug to attack the cancer but taking a drug to activate your own immune system to kill a cancer cell.”