Friday, November 07, 2008

Portland in November

My wife and I are in Portland, OR for my 6 month check up with Dr. Brian Druker. As I was heading out on the plane from Boston, I received an email from Dr. Druker's nurse practitioner, Carolyn Blasdel, with the results of my latest PCR tests. The results showed that my PCR was at 0.007%. For those of you keeping score, this is slightly higher than the 0.002% recently, but according to Dr. Druker, is not statistically significantly different. I remain in molecular remission and I have about a 4 1/2 log reduction from my original PCR score. Keep in mind that the hope is that the PCR goes to a 3 log reduction, so I am overachieving as usual.

Dr. Druker was thrilled with my progress and did not want to make any changes in my treatment protocol. He did want to consider lowering my dose of Gleevec in about a year. I am at the maximum dose of 800mg. Since I am tolerating this well, his only concern is that the long-term side effects are really unknown since they have only been studying the medication for about 10 years. He did think that if there were to be any problems, it is more likely at the higher dose.

In terms of newer developments in the field of CML research, Dr. Druker told me they are starting to use a test to monitor the therapeutic dose of Gleevec. Instead of just basing the dose on your response, he will look at the therapeutic levels of the medication in the bloodstream and then make adjustments accordingly. This makes the treatment much more individualized. In other words, 400 mg might be great for some people, but 800 mg might produce the same effect based on the Gleevec level in the body. Other developments in the CML world are continued efforts on new medications for people who are not responding to Gleevec or have genetic mutations. The major question that still frustrates Dr. Druker is whether this will ever be a curable condition or will it remain a chronic, but treatable disease.

It is always great to meet with the team at OHSU. It is such a different feel then when I go to Dana-Farber. I recognize that they are at different ends of the spectrum (and the country for that matter). At OHSU, everything feels very personable. We spent about 2 hours at the clinic. At Dana-Farber, 15 minutes is a long visit.

For anyone considering whether it is worth it to visit with Dr. Druker, my answer is a loud "Yes". Where else can you get treated by someone who invented the medication you take.

I understand why Phil Knight donated $100 million to this hospital and I hope more people continue to do so. It would be nice to have an east coast location. For now, it forces us to take mini-vacations to the pacific northwest.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An Election, a Birthday, and a Trip

Today has been an interesting day. First of all, it is my 36th birthday. I was pleasantly surprised on Facebook when many people apparently saw that it was my birthday and posted something on my Wall. So much for keeping it low key.

Second, as I have done many times, my birthday is shared with an election. Today is one of the most important elections we have ever had. The polling data is just starting to roll in as I write this and we should know in a couple of hours who our next president is.

Third, my wife and I are heading to Portland, Oregon tomorrow for my 6 month check-up with Dr. Druker. Although I recently had a PCR test which was extremely low, I had blood drawn a couple of weeks ago and shipped to Portland. I have my meeting with Dr. Druker on Thursday morning. I was amazed to read that last week, Phil Knight, one of the founders of Nike, donated $100 million dollars to the OHSU Cancer Center. Needless to say, that is an impressive amount of money that will hopefully go a long way to helping cure many cancers.

I will keep you posted about my visit with Dr. Druker.