The Bad News is, You’re Going to Survive

There is a common tendency on the part of cancer patients, upon receiving their diagnosis, is to act as if their life is over and that there is nothing they do to affect it.

Given the dismal outcome for many solid tumor patients, the tendency to give up is understandable. What often happens is the patient starts bingeing, eating and drinking too much, gaining weight, and foregoing all the lifestyle changes they had worked so hard to incorporate before the diagnosis. They’ll stop exercising and continue to smoke, figuring it has no impact.

But, what if you’re not dying? What if your first anniversary passes and you’re still well? How about your second, or third?

This has been the experience of several of my patients, who jokingly now admit that they’ve never been in worse physical condition, largely due to “letting themselves go” after the diagnosis. In response, we suggest that patients maintain a normal lifestyle even in the face of the most difficult diagnoses. Appropriate nutrition, physical activity and emotional well-being all contribute to good outcomes.

Like our pancreatic cancer patient,who I need to put on a diet, many patients over indulge. In a way, this is a new wrinkle in the old adage, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.”

About Dr. Robert A. Nagourney
Dr. Nagourney received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Boston University and his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, where he was a University Scholar. After a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Irvine, he went on to complete fellowship training in medical oncology at Georgetown University, as well as in hematology at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla. During his fellowship at Georgetown University, Dr. Nagourney confronted aggressive malignancies for which the standard therapies remained mostly ineffective. No matter what he did, all of his patients died. While he found this “standard of care” to be unacceptable, it inspired him to return to the laboratory where he eventually developed “personalized cancer therapy.” In 1986, Dr. Nagourney, along with colleague Larry Weisenthal, MD, PhD, received a Phase I grant from a federally funded program and launched Oncotech, Inc. They began conducting experiments to prove that human tumors resistant to chemotherapeutics could be re-sensitized by pre-incubation with calcium channel blockers, glutathione depletors and protein kinase C inhibitors. The original research was a success. Oncotech grew with financial backing from investors who ultimately changed the direction of the company’s research. The changes proved untenable to Dr. Nagourney and in 1991, he left the company he co-founded. He then returned to the laboratory, and developed the Ex-vivo Analysis - Programmed Cell Death ® (EVA-PCD) test to identify the treatments that would induce programmed cell death, or “apoptosis.” He soon took a position as Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the Cancer Institute of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. His primary research project during this time was chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He remained in this position until the basic research program funding was cut, at which time he founded Rational Therapeutics in 1995. It is here where the EVA-PCD test is used to identity the drug, combinations of drugs or targeted therapies that will kill a patient's tumor - thus providing patients with truly personalized cancer treatment plans. With the desire to change how cancer care is delivered, he became Medical Director of the Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial in 2003. In 2008, he returned to Rational Therapeutics full time to rededicate his time and expertise to expand the research opportunities available through the laboratory. He is a frequently invited lecturer for numerous professional organizations and universities, and has served as a reviewer and on the editorial boards of several journals including Clinical Cancer Research, British Journal of Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Cancer Research and the Journal of Medicinal Food.

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