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Maine Patients and Researchers Fighting Cancer – Part 2 

 

World Cancer Day began after the World Summit Against Cancer, February 4th of 2000 in Paris.

Now, it’s celebrated each year on February 4th.

Cancer research being done here in Maine could lead to a cure.

The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor sends the results of their research to 22 thousand other labs across 52 countries. Millions of dollars is spent on the research being done by the scientists there, and it’s all for one simple reason according to their President and CEO, Dr. Edison Liu. “You can’t find a solution unless you know the cause, and so by looking at the genetic perturbations, we then can infer abnormal functions, validate them, and then we can attack those functions in a smart manner…in a precise manner.”

At EMMC Cancer Care, research is happening there as patients get diagnosed and go through their treatments.

“There is what we usually call the transitional research which means from bench to bedside, and, of course, the clinical research that we are mostly involved in in the cancer care,” said Dr. Rodrigo Maegawa. “A lot of times we have the ability now a days of sending specific, actually like tissue specimens to specific labs, and we can look for specific drivers of their cancer, so that actually helps us quite a bit.”

“There is a precise gene that if we attack it, we could literally reverse the cancer,” said Dr. Liu. “And so for the last 30 years, what has happened is that we have parlayed that information into a dramatic new set of treatments that some of which are curative, others that are prolonging the life in really positive ways of our cancer patients.”

Some of the research is what is called “Personalized Medicine” where the DNA of the patient is examined to see how best to help them.

“What we try to do is do the sequencing of their genome,” said Dr. Maegawa. “So we can learn sort of what the aberrations the patients could have in their genome that could be driving the cancers so we could potentially target what the problem really is.”

“These incremental steps are not small when you add them all together,” said Dr. Liu. “For example, since 1990, there has been a steady decline, a linear decline, in cancer mortality. Not cancer rate unfortunately, but cancer mortality. So if you have cancer, your chances of dying are a whole lot less than they ever have been before.”

Seeing the amount of research being done here in Maine and the decrease in mortality rates from cancer should give anyone who hears the diagnosis reason to believe there may be a solution for the cause of the disease right around the corner.

“I think all our patients should be comforted by the fact the scientific and the medical communities are working very hard to find cures for cancer and the pace of this discovery is extraordinary now,” said Dr. Liu.

As for David Lincoln, who was diagnosed as Stage 4 in 2014, he’s still part of the clinical trial. While there is no cure for Multiple Myeloma at this point, he’s in remission, and back to work, and thankful for the treatment he received. “Makes life a lot sweeter, that I’m healthy and I can keep going.”