Physicians Stress Importance of Setting Expectations for Mesothelioma and All Cancer Patients
Three oncology experts got together at the 7th Annual Community Oncology Conference in Las Vegas last month and discussed the need for setting expectations for cancer patients. The physicians talked about the need for setting realistic expectations for patients “in this era of exciting new molecular therapies.” Setting expectations for mesothelioma patients, and others with incurable cancers, is especially critical to ensure the patients are prepared for the physical and emotional toll of the treatments, as well as being aware of their prognosis.
Facilitator Dr. Linda D. Bosserman, co-editor The Journal of Community Oncology was joined by panel members Dr. Ezra Cohen, Associate Professor, University of Chicago; Dr. Steven Coutre, Associate Professor, Stanford University Medical School; and Dr. James R. Berenson, Founder, President, Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research for the video-taped, roundtable discussion.
Researchers have realized significant advances in treating mesothelioma and other cancers through targeted therapies. By focusing on a patient’s specific genetic makeup, drugs are administered that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with those specific molecules. While most of these therapies are still in the testing phase for mesothelioma, results of clinical trials have proved promising for increasing survival in patients.
It is for this reason, the doctors explained, that it is important to look at the individual and ask him what is important to him, what is his goal in treating the cancer, and to use those answers to drive the treatment. When a treatment is determined, proper expectations must be established about when to treat, what to treat with and how to balance the side effects, while keeping in context the fact that the cancer may not be curable.
While targeted therapies increase the patient’s chance of survival, it is important to focus on side effect management as part of the treatment plan. With such an array of treatment opportunities, the panel stressed that doctors should look carefully at side effects and how they could affect the patient’s quality of life.
“Patients are looking to finish this marathon,” said Berenson, “and if we bang ‘em up too hard they won’t make it to the end of the road.”
“Keeping someone on an effective drug that is well tolerated, even if the disease is not eliminated, is critical to the treatment and quality of life for the patient,” added Coutre.