Patient Advocates Join Researchers to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities

Cancer patient advocates take on many roles in their communities. They may go out to churches to promote the benefits of cancer screening, lead patient and survivor support groups, or offer a patient’s perspective on review panels that evaluate research grants. Many times, an experience with cancer pushes people to accept advocacy roles to fill some unmet need or simply to give back.

All of these efforts were on display at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved in New Orleans Nov. 2-5. Opening the conference, 10 patient survivors and caregivers of various ethnicities and types of cancers took to the stage to describe how cancer has changed them and what cancer research has given them personally.

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A Growing Commitment to Cancer Survivors

Thanks to decades of cancer research that have brought us groundbreaking discoveries and treatments, 15.5 million U.S. cancer survivors have more time to spend with their loved ones. That number is only going up, to an estimated 26.1 million by 2040.

For most of these survivors, their journey comes with complications and lasting side effects. Many continue to deal with the physical, mental, and emotional impact of their cancer diagnosis long after their final treatment. Thousands of survivors face financial challenges resulting from or made worse by their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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CAR-T Cells: “Bionic” Immune Cells for Treating Cancer

In the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man, the narrator says of severely injured astronaut Steve Austin: “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.” The narrator was referring to “bionic” technologies that provided higher visual acuity, stunning strength, and the ability to run at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour.

Over the past few years, cancer immunologists have achieved a comparable feat. They have taken T cells—the immune cells capable of destroying infectious agents, foreign cells, and cancers—and rebuilt them to be better than they were, better at recognizing and killing cancer cells.

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Cancer Today Book Discussion: “When Breath Becomes Air”

As part of ongoing efforts to increase dialogue between cancer patients, survivors, physicians, and researchers, Cancer Today hosts an online discussion about a book that provides a unique take on the cancer experience. This summer, the editors have chosen to talk about The New York Times best-selling memoir When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

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Understanding Immunotherapy Side Effects

Treatment with checkpoint inhibitors is often billed as gentler than chemotherapy—and it is true that immunotherapy doesn’t come with the same acute side effects, such as hair loss, characteristic of many chemotherapy drugs. But checkpoint inhibitors are not without side effects.

In a story published in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Today, digital editor Kate Yandell discusses what is known about checkpoint inhibitor side effects and how to spot and treat them.

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Disparities in End-of-Life Care

For cancer patients at the ends of their lives, hospice care can provide access to comfort measures and extra help. Medicare offers hospice benefits to eligible patients. But not all patients have equal access to this care, research indicates.

In the spring issue of Cancer Today, medical and business journalist Charlotte Huff writes about disparities in end-of-life care affecting U.S. cancer patients.

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Why Is Liver Cancer on the Rise?

Although liver cancer isn’t as prevalent as lung cancer or breast cancer, this cancer is now the fastest-increasing cause of cancer death in the United States. In the Spring 2018 issue of Cancer Today, contributing editor Sue Rochman explored contributing factors for the increased liver cancer incidence since the mid-1970s.

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Advice from Advocates: How to Navigate the Annual Meeting

Two graduates of the AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program, a special educational experience that gives patient advocates the opportunity to attend and learn from researchers at the AACR Annual Meeting, have put together some tips to help guide advocates who are attending this or any large scientific conference.

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