Special #LCSM Chat Topic 11/05 1 PM ET: @TheNCI hosts chat on precision medicine in lung cancer

This is a repost of a blog on the #LCSM Chat website (posted with permission):


#LCSM Chat is pleased to announce a special #LCSM Chat for Lung Cancer Awareness Month will be held on WEDNESDAY, November 5 at 1 PM Eastern Time (NOT our usual day and time). The National Cancer Institute (@theNCI) and a panel of experts will be using the #LCSM hashtag to talk about exciting new lung cancer treatment options!

This chat will be in question-and-answer format, with a panel of experts addressing specific topics posed by @theNCI as well as fielding audience questions related to those topics. This format is great for patients, caregivers, medical personnel and advocates regardless of their previous experience with tweetchats.  We hope you’ll join us!  (Check out our refresher on how to join a tweetchat)

Below is NCI’s announcement about the November 5 Chat.

On Wednesday, November 5 from 1:00-2:00 ET, the National Cancer Institute (@theNCI) will be hosting a Twitter chat on precision medicine in lung cancer using the #LCSM hashtag.

We’ll have a “who’s who” of precision medicine lung cancer experts on the chat, including:

  • Dr. David Gerber, Lung Cancer Specialist, UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Ryan M. Hohman, JD, Managing Director, Policy & Public Affairs, Friends of Cancer Research
  • Dr. Shakun Malik, Head, Thoracic Cancer Therapeutics in the Clinical Investigations Branch of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation program at the National Cancer Institute
  • Dr. Geoffrey R. Oxnard, MS, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Dr. Vassiliki Papadimitrakopoulou, M.D., Professor, Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

During the chat, the experts will be discussing, among other topics, how lung cancer treatment has changed over the last few years, provide more information about the definition of “precision medicine” as it applies to lung cancer, discuss when patients might consider a clinical trial, as well as provide more background and specifics on the Lung-MAP and ALCHEMIST clinical trials.

For more background information on Lung-MAP, we also recommend Friends of Cancer Research’s “What Leaders in the Field are Saying About Lung-MAP.”

Technology for Coordinating Care — #hcldr chat 10/28

Lung cancer and other acute/chronic health conditions require care teams with more than one healthcare professional, sometimes located in more than one care facility.  To provide the best care for the patient, these teams often must coordinate with the patient as well as caregivers, family members, care facilities, and community services.  How can technology platforms (like smart phones and social media) help with this process?

#HCLDR Chat will tackle this topic, Platforms for Community-Wide Care Coordination, in their next chat on Tuesday, October 28, at 8:30 PM Eastern Time.

I hope you’ll join the #hcldr chat and share YOUR thoughts on this important subject.  We’ll be discussing the following topics:

  • T1: What are the most important challenges patients, family members & caregivers face in coordinating care?
  • T2: What challenges do care teams (clinicians, lay health workers, managers) face in coordinating care?
  • T3: What are examples of where social media and other technologies have supported care coordination?
  • T4: How can social media & other technologies help coordinate care for publicly insured, rural & other underserved communities?

I (@JFreemanDaily) will be participating as a guest in this chat, along with other members of a panel who will be presenting at the upcoming Workshop on Interactive Systems in Healthcare (WISH) 2014 which will be co-located with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium on November 15, 2014 in Washington, DC.   The responses gathered in the #hcldr chat will be included in our WISH panel discussion.  The other panelists participating in the chat are:

  • Katherine Kim, PhD, MPH, MBA (@kimkater): health informaticist, researcher and Assistant Professor at University of California, Davis
  • Charles Boicey, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS (@N2InformaticsRN): Enterprise Analytics Architect for the State University of New York, Stony Brook Medicine
  • Susan Hull, MSN, RN (@SusanCHull): nursing executive , founder and CEO of WellSpring Consulting
  • Anna McCollister-Slipp (@annamcslipp): diabetes epatient, co-founder of Galileo Analytics

My Take on This

This is a topic of great interest to me.  I can see many care coordination needs that might be addressed with technology platforms.  Here are some snippets from my own experience as a lung cancer patient.

Having multiple care providers at different facilities is a common situation with lung cancer.  When I was undergoing my first line of treatment, I met regularly with seven healthcare providers in four different facilities:  a pulmonologist and infectious disease doctor in a major medical center, a medical oncologist and infusion nurse in a local clinic, a  radiation oncologist and nurse in a different local clinic, and a contractor that provided supplies for my PICC line.  Even though the doctors all belonged to the same medical center, each facility had different scheduling software and limited or no access to my electronic medical records at the other facilities.  Care coordination was mostly done by telephone and fax.  My husband and I tracked my daily appointments on a wall calendar at home.  If the infusion nurse giving me my chemo needed to ask a question of the radiation oncology nurse who has seen me when I received my radiation treatment 30 minutes earlier, they played phone tag in between patients.  Having a common platform accessible to all team members that showed my appointment schedule and treatment notes and allowed even brief instant messaging (e.g., “give Janet 1L IV fluids after her chemo today”) would have been very helpful.

Having a device that could display my current health conditions and meds, then connect an emergency medical tech or doctor to my oncologist (even when out of cell phone range) would be pretty nifty.  Currently I keep a two-page summary of my lung cancer treatment history and contact info with me on a USB Medic Alert bracelet when I travel.  This presumes whoever finds me unconscious has a PC with a USB port and a PDF reader handy. My epatient friend Casey Quinlan had her medical record access info tattooed as a QR code on her chest.

I have learned the value of keeping a complete set of my medical records at home in case I need them.  While I can access some of my medical records online at the two medical centers where I currently receive care, right now I can only see lab results, and (at one facility) scan reports.  When my tumor tissue underwent mutation testing at an NCCN facility, an oncologist’s office at the same facility couldn’t find the test results without my sleuthing to find a specific number on a faxed copy of the test report–fortunately I had requested one previously.  There’s GOT to be a better way to transmit current medical records rapidly between facilities than faxing or emailing scanned documents!

Metastatic lung cancer patients like me–especially those who are eligible for targeted therapies, aggressive treatment, or clinical trials–find second opinions can be life saving.  When a patient takes a turn for the worse or a clinical trial has limited openings, the second opinion may occur on short notice.  For me, pursuing a second opinion for my lung cancer today would mean going to a 3-foot-deep file cabinet drawer and gathering a stack of CDs containing relevant CT, PET, and MRI scans and other medical records (clinic notes, pathology reports, lab results, chemo summaries, radiation treatment summaries, etc).   If I were to include all the records I’ve generated in over three years of lung cancer treatment, the stack of CDs would be over 4 inches thick.  The radiology scan files are too big to be transmitted electronically and still preserve the ability to view the data, so I’d take those CDs with me.  All those other records provided by my care center exist as a few unsearchable pdf files containing hundreds of images of hardcopy documents.   For those records, I’d save the second opinion doc from having to read every single page of the huge file; instead, I’d ask which files they need to see, and print hardcopies to take instead (I keep the most important of these in a 3-ring binder).  If I had a week, I could request CDs of the specific files from the medical records department and wait to receive them via snailmail.

Some patients may use medical devices such as my CPAP machine that generate medical data useful to the care team.  However, it may be difficult or impossible to pass that data to a healthcare provider in a different location, or even access the data if the device employs proprietary designs.  My CPAP has a removable SD disk that can be read by most card readers in PCs.  However, I’d have to download the software to read it, and I can’t capture the data I read so I can transmit it to anyone.  “Interoperability” doesn’t really exist with medical devices yet.  I may be hallucinating from too much chocolate, but I’d love to see a platform that provides an interface to different medical devices and electronic medical records so they can network the way my Fitbit shares data with my LoseIt! diet app on my smartphone.

I’d also love to see care coordination solutions designed for those who do not have reliable access to the Internet.  Not all patients live in areas where broadband Internet or cell phone coverage is available, and not all patients can afford to pay for Internet service or devices that access it.  Yes, they could go to the library, but who wants to put sensitive personal medical info on a screen and unsecure computer for everyone to read?

Speaking as a system engineer, creating a secure technology platform that meets all the requirements and desirements without causing more complications in the already messy digital medicine world will require out-of-the-box creativity.  Maintaining data security and HIPPA privacy is essential.  Forcing already overloaded healthcare workers to use yet another interface, or forcing facilities to invest in a new standardized medical records system without providing the funds and training to implement it, are both non-starters.  The motivation for change will have to come from demonstrating that a new technology platform improves care quality and access, reduces cost and workload, and is readily adopted by patients and carers alike.

The first step in solving this problem is to capture the requirements; I hope the #hcldr chat on 10/28 will contribute to this effort.

Care Coordination Challenge graphic (UC Davis)
Image credit: UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing

#LCSM Chat Topic 10/23: How can we help new stage IV #lungcancer patients consider 2nd opinions, mutation testing and clinical trials?

The following post is reblogged with permission from today’s #LCSM Chat blog.


Most patients experience a period of stunned disbelief or shock when they hear a diagnosis of “metastatic lung cancer.”  For those who are offered treatment options, the first few months revolve around medical appointments.  Others may only be told to go home and get their affairs in order.  Patients and family members may be in denial, or trying to process what all those dismal survival statistics mean for their future. It might be the first time the patient or a family member has had to confront the possibility of death for themselves or a loved one.

Some patients (or their caregivers) may be empowered, engaged and researching options, but many don’t have the physical or emotional energy to do so.  At this point, few patients are thinking about second opinions, mutation testing, or clinical trials.

The problem with waiting for metastatic lung cancer patients to become empowered and engaged is that the majority won’t live a year if they can’t access the newest treatment options. However, if they get educated about their options, consult with a knowledgeable oncologist, and are eligible for newer treatments or clinical trials, their lifespan may be years longer.

You might ask, how could this be true?

The landscape of personalized medicine and new lung cancer treatments is changing fast, and more stage IV lung cancer patients are living longer.  Unfortunately, due to the pace of that change, not all healthcare providers who treat lung cancer are current on the newest treatment options. Some oncologists do not test their patients’ adenocarcinoma lung cancer tumors for EGFR or ALK, even though NCCN and other respected guidelines recommend it.  Even research oncologists at NCCN facilities can’t track every new clinical trial for lung cancer.  And, sadly, some healthcare providers simply believe that because metastatic lung cancer is not curable, there’s no point in treating it.

The fact is, most metastatic lung cancer patients (or their trusted caregivers) will need to become engaged and empowered if the patients want a better chance at survival.  Many will need help to do this, either online or offline.

The #LCSM Chat on October 23 will explore how the lung cancer community might help metastatic lung cancer patients become interested in and knowledgeable about second opinions, mutation testing, and clinical trials. Your moderator Janet Freeman-Daily (@JFreemanDaily), a stage IV lung cancer patient who currently has No Evidence of Disease in a clinical trial, will offer the following topics for discussion:

T1:  How can we help a stage IV lung cancer patient understand the need for 2nd opinion when their doctor offers no treatment?

T2:  How can we help a stage IV adeno lung cancer patient consider EGFR & ALK mutation testing if their doctor has not done it?

T3:  How can we help a stage IV lung cancer patient consider targeted therapy clinical trials if they have a targetable mutation?

We look forward to seeing you in the chat! To participate in the chat, remember to include #LCSM in all your tweets, or use a tweetchat tool like tchat.io with that hashtag (more on that here).

Movie Music Magic

Yesterday I saw the Seattle Symphony perform a Pops concert titled “The Movie Music of John Williams.”  Being a science fiction fan, I knew many of the movies well: Superman, Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars.  I was in heaven.  Who cared the Seattle Seahawks were playing nearby?

The Conductor talked a bit about each composition, and explained a movie theme evolves through conversations between the filmmaker and the composer. On the suggestion of the conductor, I focused on the feeling imparted by the music as I reflected on the plot of each movie. The writer in me recognized a lot of foreshadowing and definition of characters. For example, the Superman theme was upbeat and heroic. Indiana Jones conveyed adventure and romance. Actually, a lot of the music had an epic/heroic feel–Williams used some common structures in the different compositions.

The Casablanca Suite (composed by Max Steiner) even suggested the Moroccan setting.  I imagine that would be a bit tougher with Star Wars.  What musical phrasing would suggest an alien planet like Tattooine?

Interestingly, the Jurassic Park theme created an image of a magnificent park full of amazing dinosaurs, but gave no hint the magnificence would eat anyone. I wonder if Spielberg told Williams not to reveal that part of the movie?

The conductor also had some fun speculating about early Spielberg-Williams conversations on the Jaws theme.
Spielberg: So how’s the theme coming?
Williams: Well, I’ve got this so far. [plays the single bass note which starts the infamous DUH-duh-DUH-duh]
I couldn’t help it. I found myself imagining Spielberg responding, “We’re gonna need a bigger note.”  My husband had no clue why I was giggling.

At the end of the evening, I indulged my inner geek and had my picture taken with some denizens of the lobby. It was MAHvelous to immerse myself in music and stories I love and forget all about lung cancer for a few hours.

JEF and Star Wars at the Symphony

A Fog of Feeling

An onshore flow is washing over the Puget Sound this morning. The mocha-thick fog smells of shoreline and decaying leaves.  Fall is wafting in, and it soon will be dark when I get up at 7 AM.

If you detect a bit of melancholy in my words, you’re right. My emotions are foggy.  It’s been a week of highs and lows.

Yes, the highs outnumbered the lows. Friend and lung cancer advocate Tori Tomalia (who has the same type and stage of lung cancer as me) gave an inspiring and moving speech at a lung cancer event.  Someone found my blog by googling “wonderful late stage cancer blogs.”  A Facebook friend said my Stanford Medicine X speech on lung cancer stigma changed her life.  And a new lung cancer drug received Breakthrough designation by the FDA for those with ALK-positive non-small cell LC.

But the down came late, and hard: another stage IV lung cancer patient with my genomic mutation (ROS1) died yesterday.  Burton, a Harvard grad, was only 26.  He didn’t even have time to marry his fiancée, Emily (who’s been blogging about Burton’s lung cancer since April).

Being part of lung cancer community that includes advanced and late stage patients means the community, however educated and motivated, will lose members. I’m almost numb to it by now.  But I still feel something, even when the lost member is someone I’ve known only through Emily’s “ros1positive” blog.

For no logical reason, Burton’s death also makes me a bit anxious about my monthly blood work tomorrow. I’ve had so many blood draws over the past 3 years that I don’t really think about them.  But now, for the first time, I’m wondering if the blood draw will hurt, or if the nurse will even be able to draw my blood.  Last month my power port was seriously misbehaving, so I had to have the PET scan tracer and CT contrast injected into a vein on the flat inside of my left arm.  The tracer injection was fine, but the pressured injection of contrast HURT.  By the next day, I had a lumpy blood vessel at the injection site, and skin around the vein was angry red.  A month later, that section of vein is more black than blue.

My port is misbehaving on most scan days now, and the fibrin sheath I’ve grown over the tip of my power port’s catheter is getting tougher and tougher to remove. It may be time to have my port replaced.  Yes, it’s only minor surgery, but it means losing a day to the anesthetic  and accepting considerable discomfort around the surgery site for a week or so.

Being good at growing a fibrin sheath is not a useful skill. I wish I could grow something over my emotions when yet another friend who has lung cancer dies.

Tori Tomalia Is “Sharing Our Story” for Lung Cancer Survivors

Stage IV lung cancer blogger Tori Tomalia, a mother with young children, gave a great speech at a lung cancer event yesterday. She posted the speech on her blog, and gave me permission to repost the text below. Inspiring!


Sharing Our Story

I almost titled this post “Sharing My Story,” but realized that this is much bigger than me. Today I had the honor of speaking at the Peter A. Kaylor Lung Cancer Walk in Allegan, Michigan. I know how lucky I am to be able to speak out about this disease, when so many others who have gone before me are no longer able to do so.This was what I had to say about my one year, four months, and five days (so far) of living with lung cancer.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It started with a cough that wouldn’t go away. But everybody I knew had a cold, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. I started to feel a little better, but before long I had another chest cold. And I was exhausted, but I was in grad school full time, working, and raising a 4 year old and infant twins. Who wouldn’t be exhausted?!? But my breathing kept getting worse, so the doctor thought it was a return of my childhood asthma. We tried one medication, then another, then another. But I kept getting worse. Finally, in May of 2013 they sent me for a chest CT scan to see if there was something else going on. There was. The scan revealed a large mass in my left lung, that had wrapped all around and had caused my lung to partially collapse. A biopsy confirmed that it was lung cancer, and further testing showed that the cancer had spread to the other lung, my spine, my hip, my ribs, my shoulder blade, and my liver. I was unequivocally stage IV, inoperable, at age 37.

At that time, I thought it was impossible for a nonsmoker to get lung cancer. Clearly, I was very wrong.

So I began 4 months of chemotherapy. July, August, September, October, I struggled with side effects and tried to spend as much time with my family as humanly possible, to “make memories” as my social worker advised. I got to see my little girls learn to ride tricycles, and I got to see my son start kindergarten. The amazing thing was that as the summer progressed, my breathing started getting better. I was able to climb upstairs and kiss my son goodnight again. I was able to walk around carrying my little girls. And then the scans confirmed it: the chemo was working, and my cancer was shrinking. But as October rolled around, a question loomed: what next? The cancer was shrinking, but not gone, and a person can only tolerate so much chemo before the toxic side effects become too damaging. We discussed what they call “maintenance” chemo, a lower dose of chemo that they can give for as long as the patient can tolerate it, to try and keep the cancer at bay.

Meanwhile, the shock of having stage IV cancer was starting to wear off, and my thirst for knowledge had kicked back in. I started reading about personalized medicine, where they can test the tumor and figure out what went wrong to cause the cancer, called the cancer “driver.” My oncologist had tested me for two common ones, but my obsessive reading and research revealed that there are several other rare ones that can be tested for. I asked my oncologist for further testing and on October 31 – Halloween – I got the wonderful, game changing news that we had discovered what went wrong to cause my cancer, and that there is a drug to treat it. In November, I started on a brand new drug called Xalkori. I have been taking this medicine – two pills a day – for 11 months, and currently I have no evidence of active cancer anywhere in my body.

But I know the battle isn’t over. My wonder drug is amazing, and I am thankful for the good quality of life I have now. I still have side effects, but they are not as bad as chemo. However, I know that my cancer will eventually become resistant to this treatment, that my cancer will figure out a way around my super drug. If/when that time comes, I will pursue other treatments, plans B, C, D, and so on. I have stage IV cancer, I will always be in treatment.

To say that this past year has been life-changing is quite an understatement. I certainly appreciate things more than I used to, and I think I have gotten even bolder and more outspoken than I used to be, if that is possible. And I have connected with a whole lung cancer community full of incredibly strong and wonderful people, who I now consider my “lung cancer family.” Sadly, I have learned that this disease can strike absolutely anybody.

There’s Craig, diagnosed at age 60
Janet, diagnosed at age 55
Mark, age 47
Lisa, age 41
Molly, age 39
Samantha, age 33
Emily, age 28
Burton, age 23
and Corey, age 22

The thing we all have in common is that we were all diagnosed at stage IV. Stage IV. The other thing we all have in common? None of us deserved this.

Here are some sobering facts:

  • Lung cancer is the second leading cause of all deaths in the US.
  • Lung cancer kills almost 2x as many women as breast cancer and 3x as many men as prostate cancer.
  • Lung cancer in never smokers is 6th leading cause of US cancer deaths.

And yet, I chose to remain hopeful. I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Things are changing fast in cancer research. If I would have gotten this a few years earlier, I probably wouldn’t be here today. If I hadn’t pushed to get more testing done on my tumor, I might not be here today. Chalk it up to stubbornness, perseverance, or just dumb luck, I am very thankful to be here talking to you today.

I am alive because of research. There are some really exciting discoveries going on out there and some amazing things coming down the pike. My goal is to stick around long enough to see them.

Neuropsych Serendipity

I visited the Virginia Mason Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation department today for a consult about dealing with my chemobrain symptoms.

I expected the appointment to be an introductory session: the counselor and I would spend the time recounting my cancer history, detailing my symptoms, explaining the chemobrain study in which I participated at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center last year, learning about therapy options, and discussing possible neurocognitive testing.

Turns out the Ph.D. psychologist I saw was the lead researcher for last year’s chemobrain study!

She knew me.  She knew my history. She had access to my previous neurocognitive results from the trial.  The available therapy options were the techniques she and her team had taught me last year.

So, we spent a VERY productive hour talking about coping strategies for my particular symptoms and situations.

Might this be cosmic payback for volunteering for clinical studies?

Serendipity rocks.


brain 2 graphic

Weighing In (Reluctantly)

I hoped it wouldn’t happen.  But it did.

I stepped on the bathroom scale, and my weight was higher than “that number.”  You know, that number all women have in their heads (even if we say we don’t), the one I can’t possibly weigh because it absolutely, positively, undeniably means I’ve hit an unhealthy benchmark.

I’ve tried to be patient with myself.  I know much of the sixty pounds I’ve gained since my cancer diagnosis can be blamed on chemo-induced menopause, metabolic changes, reduced activity due to side effects of lung cancer treatment, a year of steroids, and edema caused by my current targeted therapy, crizotinib.  (Notice I’m not mentioning my fondness for chocolate—allow me the comfort of a small rationalization.)

Yet the scale kept creeping upward until it hit “that number” a week ago.  I suppose I subconsciously acknowledged the possibility when I donated all my large-sized clothes a couple of months ago, when I had to buy 2X jeans to be comfortable.

I had hoped I could ignore it, that I could just say I’m happy that I’m still alive three years after my cancer went metastatic, that I could settle for being “that number.”  But BMI doesn’t lie.  My every-8-week PET scans consistently show fatty liver.  I am not just overweight.  I am OBESE, and putting myself at risk for lots of nasty health conditions. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, given I’ve worked so hard to beat the lung cancer odds.  All my cancer doctors say it’s OK if I want to lose weight intentionally, in a reasonable manner.

Over a decade ago, I lost 50# and kept most of it off until I got cancer.  However, I’ve not had much success with moderate measures since my cancer diagnosis.  I’m going to have to be strict with myself, and keep it going for months.  I’m not looking forward to it, but that’s how it is.

So into the weight loss trenches I go.  Tossing out the tempting goodies and hiding the Halloween treats.  Aiming to eliminate simple carbohydrates.  Saying no to some foods I prepare for my family.  Tracking my fat, carbs and protein with the LoseIt app on my phone.  Tracking my steps and calories burned with my Fitbit band (good thing the two devices talk to each other).  Keeping my calorie deficit above 500 calories per day.  Exercising at a moderate pace over 30 minutes per day.

You’d think my body would appreciate this.  You’d think it would reward me by showing at least a little weight loss after the first few days of self-discipline.  Instead, I gained.  But I have a legitimate excuse, honest:

Fat piggies (2014-09-30)

Apparently my edema doesn’t agree with my new diet.  Sigh.