- Special Sections
(BPT) - More than 1.6 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society, with more than half a million Americans expected to die from it. While we have seen significant advances in cancer treatment over the past several years, the medical and scientific communities continue to strive to identify new and improved treatment approaches.
This means many clinical trials are evaluating targeted therapies directed to unique aspects of the disease. This is good news for patients and provides them with additional treatment options, enabling them to actively take part in their cancer journey.
Dan Parker was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in November 2003 at the age of 23. After experiencing symptoms including itchy skin, weight loss, fatigue and night sweats, he found a lump in his neck, which led to a visit to his doctor and ultimately a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma.
Parker underwent a standard chemotherapy regimen and was cancer-free for two and a half years. But in 2006, his lymphoma returned and he decided to explore clinical trials. A clinical trial is a research study conducted to answer specific questions about a new treatment or therapeutic approach.
Parker participated in several clinical trials, including one incorporating brentuximab vedotin, the first in a new type of targeted therapies called antibody-drug conjugates, which are designed to deliver cell-killing agents directly to cancer cells.
“There is a misperception about clinical trials – that patients are treated like ‘test subjects’ – but in my experience, participating in clinical trials gave me access to treatments that I would otherwise not have received and provided me with a novel alternative option after standard treatments failed,” explains Parker. “A key to improving the treatment of cancers is having patients willing to participate in clinical trials.”
There are numerous cancer clinical trials underway, including three phase 3 clinical trials evaluating the therapy Parker received called brentuximab vedotin in Hodgkin lymphoma and certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“The goal of clinical research in cancer care is to find treatments that are less toxic and may work better than current therapies,” says Dr. Ajay Gopal, Parker’s doctor at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. “I encourage all cancer patients to contact academic institutions in their area to explore treatment options through clinical trials.”
Facing a cancer diagnosis can be daunting, but there are five actions patients and caregivers can take to help along the journey, actively participate in their cancer care and potentially impact the future of cancer treatment.
1. Get all of the facts about your diagnosis.
There are many subtypes to all cancers. In Hodgkin lymphoma for example, there are six different subcategories and within non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there are more than 60 different subcategories. With recent medical advancements, doctors are evaluating certain therapies designed to target some specific types of cancer, so make sure you know all you can before you choose your treatment.
2. Explore all treatment options.
In addition to marketed drugs, there are many clinical trials underway evaluating new therapies for cancer. Ask your doctor if you might be right for a clinical trial or visit www.clinicaltrials.gov to see if there are ongoing trials for your disease.
3. Get a second opinion.
Choosing your treatment path is an important decision. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
New research shows that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function physically and your quality of life. Diet also plays an important role, as research has shown that cancer patients who maintain a healthy weight and good nutritional state have fewer complications resulting in shorter hospital stays, reduced illness and a better sense of well-being. Work with your doctor to develop an appropriate diet and exercise plan for you before, during and after your treatment.
5. Don’t face cancer alone.
Regardless of the type of cancer you or a loved one is facing, there are support groups available. Research local and national advocacy groups online and ask your oncologists or nursing staff for recommendations.
(BPT) - Careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are growing and quickly. By 2023, STEM will generate a projected 2.6 million new jobs, creating a high demand for qualified employees with STEM backgrounds in the coming years, according to Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Despite attractive career opportunities for the next generation of STEM workers, the industry continues to be predominantly male. Women make up only 24 percent of the STEM workforce, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports.
Several programs nationwide are working to close the gender gap by encouraging participation among female students in STEM projects, activities and lessons early on in their education. DeVry University’s HerWorld is one such program. Its mission is to educate high school girls about STEM-related fields and connect them with real-life role models.
Throughout March, designated National HerWorld Month by DeVry University, thousands of young women will interact with their peers, learn from experienced women in high-visibility STEM careers, and participate in confidence-building activities and hands-on workshops at HerWorld events across the country.
“HerWorld was created 17 years ago to fill a need for programs that support and develop high school girls’ interest in STEM,” says Dr. Donna M. Loraine, provost/vice president of academic affairs at DeVry University. “While we have made great progress, our focus for HerWorld today is to encourage girls’ interest in these subjects in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors who can show them that careers in STEM are challenging but realizable.”
One-third of women who enter STEM bachelor’s degree programs after high school switch their major to a non-STEM field by the time they graduate, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education and National Center for Education Statistics. Demonstrating to teenage girls that there are women who will support them through their journey in STEM is an important part of HerWorld’s objective.
This year for National HerWorld Month, DeVry University is partnering again with Mayim Bialik, best known for her television roles on “The Big Bang Theory” and “Blossom.” The renewed partnership between Bialik and DeVry is a natural fit given Bialik’s own STEM background: she earned her Doctorate of philosophy in neuroscience in 2007.
"My biology tutor on the set of 'Blossom' was a tremendously significant mentor for me, inspiring me to look at science and my academic skills in a different way," says Bialik. "Though I am currently employed primarily as an actress and not a neuroscientist, I still benefited from a role model showing me what I could achieve in the sciences. I think young girls today deserve the same thing and I want to give them the confidence they need to succeed in STEM.”
The STEM industry has garnered national attention recently, most notably in President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address.
“Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy - problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math,” says President Obama. “Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from much more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it - and it’s working.”
HerWorld is part of this national momentum. Bialik and guest speakers who are role models from a variety of STEM backgrounds will show high school girls how they can apply their skills and intelligence to unique and interesting careers in STEM. Programs like HerWorld address a vital need to provide girls interested in STEM with mentors who can guide and motivate them throughout their educational and professional journeys. Closing the gender gap requires opening the eyes of the next generation to the many possibilities in STEM, and no one can do that better than the women who have seen their own aspirations come to fruition.