Medicare approves genomic testing for cancers

Today the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced they will cover Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for cancer! This is a major victory for all cancer patients.

Decision Memo for Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for Medicare Beneficiaries with Advanced Cancer (CAG-00450N)

An opportunity to support patient-driven ROS1 cancer research

I hope you’ll support me and the Global ROS1 Initiative as we strive to accelerate research, find better treatments and hopefully cure ROS1 positive (ROS1+) cancer — which I have. Here’s a National Cancer Institute blog about the Initiative. This project is very dear to me.

If you’ve been meaning to contribute, or you have friends or family you’ve been meaning to ask to donate, do it today, or sometime before the end of the year!  The recently-signed US tax law revisions may affect whether you can claim a tax deduction for your charitable contributions after January 1, 2018.

Janet Freeman-Daily’s ROS1 Research Fundraiser

Thanks for supporting ROS1+ cancer research—you could help save someone’s life someday. For those who want more detail about the project and fundraiser, read on!

Why research ROS1 Cancer?

My type of cancer is driven by an alteration in the ROS1 gene. Medical research has made it possible for me to live well with aggressive, metastatic ROS1+ lung cancer since 2011. However, ROS1+ cancer is uncommon (only 1%-2% of lung and other cancers) and not well understood. Only one approved ROS1-targeted drug exists, and patients eventually develop resistance to it. Little is known about how this disease begins, progresses and develops resistance to treatment.

Is my donation tax-deductible?

This fundraiser directs funds to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (view their Guidestar page); monies are placed in an ALCF account designated for our ROS1 project. Donations  are tax deductible under US tax laws.

What is the Global ROS1 Initiative?

I helped to create the Global ROS1 Initiative, a unique collaboration between ROS1+ patients, caregivers, researchers, clinicians, and industry. This is the first-ever effort initiated by patients to focus on cancer driven by a single genomic alteration anywhere in the body. We are initially funding projects in the US (takes time to learn about international research collaboration), but our patient group is global, with patients in 19 countries to date.

How did the Global ROS1 Initiative get started?

Who are the Global ROS1 Initiative partners?

What research will the Global ROS1 Initiative fund?

Funds in the ROS1-designated account will be distributed by a panel of Global ROS1 Initiative representatives (including patients) to our projects. We are funding two projects at present:

  • A survey conducted through Stanford University, which collects personal and health history data on ROS1ders. Researchers will study the data to look for possible causes of ROS1+ cancer, and evaluate effectiveness and sequence of treatment options.
  • The ROS1 Cancer Model project, which is creating new models of ROS1+ cancer for drug development and research into our disease. In early 2017, only a few ROS1+ models existed, and they did not represent all the dozens of variations of ROS1+ cancer. In this project, we ROS1ders agree to donate our cancer tumor cells collected in the normal course of care to create cell lines and mouse models that researchers can use to study our disease.

How will the Global ROS1 Initiative accelerate research?

As part of our patient-driven approach, we aim to make our data and models widely available to the cancer research community instead of holding it in silos at individual institutions.  We will be creating a biorepository of our specimens with annotated patient data, including making use of patient registries (like the Lung Cancer Registry) that share de-identified data will validated researchers. The cancer models we create will be distributed at minimal cost to researchers.

The ROS1ders also help spread vetted information about ROS1+ cancers to patients, caregivers, and the public.  We donate our time to maintain and write content for the website  which shares up-to-date information about ROS1+ cancer, names of ROS1+ experts, known treatments and their approval status globally, and available clinical trials focused on ROS1+ cancers.  We also administer a private Facebook group in which ROS1+ patients and caregivers share their experiences, news about our cancer, and tips for living with our disease (more info on joining this group is here).

Health risks of open enrollment

My blood pressure and sleep cycle took a serious hit last night, and it wasn’t my cancer acting up.

I was online researching the details of my 2018 health plan.  I had already made my selection during Open Enrollment–only one plan met my needs. I  was digging deeper into my 2018 coverage for more major changes–like my copay for medical visits jumping from $15 to 10%. I had to search for a link, that wasn’t at all obvious; finally I found “Annual Enrollment has Closed. View your future coverage” and clicked.

Much to my surprise, Boeing’s benefits website said I had chosen a new 2018 health plan.  A quick review of terms showed it didn’t cover my Colorado clinical trial!

My heart rate shot up.  My throat got tight.  My breathing accelerated. That trial has kept me alive for five years and counting, and provided my expensive targeted therapy drug for FREE.  Another clinical trial is my best hope for staying alive when this cancer drug fails me (as it is likely to do); both ROS1 trials and ROS1 expert oncologists are virtually non-existent in my home state of Washington. My Colorado oncologist is among the handful of world experts in my type of cancer and has access to all the ROS1 clinical trials.  If I didn’t have access to out-of-state experts at academic cancer centers, my hopes of long-term survival were greatly diminished.  It would be bigly expensive to pay for out-of-state medical care personally–about $10K for each clinic visit that included a scan.

Hubby wasn’t home and not available by phone, so I texted a couple of fellow patient advocates and snuggled kitties to calm myself until I could think things through.

Could it be a glitch in Boeing’s benefits website?  I had a message on file from Boeing saying I would have the same health plan unless I directed them to change my plan.  Yet when I clicked on that link ‘view your future coverage” link I was in a different health plan that only had access to selected clinics near Seattle, not the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBSIL) national network I’d been in for years.

Did I click on the wrong button during open enrollment? My brain doesn’t remember things as well as it did BC (before cancer), but I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen a screen that said anything like “confirm your change in healthcare plan.”

Might Boeing take pity on a metastatic cancer patient with chemobrain and allow me to change my plan, if indeed I’d chosen the wrong plan?  A fellow metastatic lung cancer patient said her plan allowed her to make a change after open enrollment closed when she realized she’d missed the deadline. I certainly hoped Boeing would be equally understanding if I’d made a mistake.

Alas, I couldn’t take any action last night, as Boeing Benefits was closed for the day. My only option was to call first thing in the morning.

I had a bad night.

Fortunately, this morning Boeing Benefits confirmed they had misleading info on their website.  I still have my excellent BCBSIL coverage for 2018. I can continue in my clinical trial and have most of my medical expenses covered.


However, I suspect this is not the last such panic I will experience.  I suspect we chronically and seriously ill patients in the USA will be facing more insurance-related shocks over the next several years.

Last year, several friends who are self-employed cancer patient/advocates on Affordable Care Act plans discovered their longtime oncologists at academic cancer centers were no longer covered by any plan on the ACA.  This year, another cancer patient discovered their health plan’s 2018 formulary dropped their expensive, life-saving targeted therapy cancer drug (which costs upwards of $10,000 per month in the US).  Uncertainty in the insurance market and proposed changes in subsidies and and the tax code threaten to drive up insurance costs even faster.  As insurers leave the market, some patients can no longer find plans in their geographic area that cover their needs.

And, when I turn 65 in a few years and become eligible for Medicare, Boeing will no longer provide health coverage for me (that’s another long story). I’ll have to change to a far more expensive and less comprehensive Medicare plan–assuming Medicare is still around.

“Who knew healthcare was so complicated?” Ask any patient with serious health conditions.

As more patients lose healthcare coverage options, the healthcare system may have to add a new code: Death from  health insurance changes.

The start of something big …

I’m excited to be one of the handful of patients speaking in a public forum tomorrow evening at The Broad Institute in Boston, Massachusetts (well, technically, Cambridge). We’ll be sharing our “Lessons for Creating Patient­‐Researcher Partnerships to Accelerate Biomedical Progress.” I get to talk about the founding of the ROS1ders and the Global ROS1 Initiative.

A host of engaged patients, cancer researchers, and other healthcare types, among them the American Society for Clinical Oncology and the Biden Cancer Initiative (which grew out of the Cancer Moonshot) will be there. This could be the start of something BIG. At a minimum, it will spontaneously generate a HUGE group hug with advocate friends old and new.

Coincidentally, we’ll be staying at a hotel just a few blocks from my old MIT dorm during MIT Reunion Weekend.  I’ll be too late for reunion festivities–attending the ASCO Annual Meeting last week took priority.  Still, I’ll wander over on my knee scooter (still healing after foot surgery) in the 90º-plus heat.  I ought to be able to reflect on my crazy undergrad days on Third East in the East Campus dormitory for at least five minutes before seeking refuge inside an air-conditioned building.  Next year I plan to indulge in my 40th MIT Reunion–I didn’t expect to live long enough to see it, and I’m going to take full advantage of the the opportunity!

NCI Features the ROS1ders on its CCG Blog

Today the National Cancer Institute published this blog about the ROS1ders on the Center for Cancer Genomics “Insights and Innovations” blog.  The Global ROS1 Initiative is underway!  I’m glad I was able to help share our story.

ROS1+ Cancer Patients Partner to Increase Research

May 23, 2017, by Janet Freeman-Daily, MS, Eng

In May 2015, I met four friends in a bar near Washington, D.C., to talk about not dying of cancer.

This conversation planted a seed that has grown into The Global ROS1 Initiative, a patient-researcher partnership that is redefining research into ROS1-positive (ROS1+) cancer. The Initiative includes a group of over 150 patients in 19 countries; two patient-focused foundations, Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI); academic cancer researchers; and industry. The Initiative includes more than twice the number of patients enrolled in any ROS1 clinical trial thus far.

How did this happen? Let’s return to the bar. Read More …

Collecting ROS1-Positive Cancer Tissue for Research

This is a repost from the ROS1der blog.

The ROS1ders have partnered with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) with the goal of accelerating research into cancers that are driven by ROS1 fusions, or ROS1-positive (ROS1+) cancer.  Here’s more about how this project started  

This blog post summarizes one project of this initiative: the ROS1 biorepository. The biorepository will collect tumor tissue and other specimens from patients who have ROS1+ cancers.  Some of the tumor tissue will be used to create cancer models of ROS1+ cancer.

Having more models of our rare cancer will greatly accelerate research. Cancer models have long been used to study molecular mechanisms of disease, research biologic processes, and develop new cancer treatments.  Researchers need many different models of ROS1+ cancer from many different patients to develop more effective treatments that are likely to work for most ROS1+ patients. Cancer models are especially important for assessing the effectiveness and toxicity of combination therapies before testing them on patients. We need lots of ROS1+ tumor tissue samples because these models are difficult to create, and a given tumor sample does not always generate a useful model.

If you would like to help make this project a reality, please use the “Contact Us” form and let us know.  If you’re a ROS1der and want to help define the project, please post about your interest as soon as possible in the “ROS1 Positive (ROS1+) Cancer” Facebook group

Thanks to Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Dr. Robert Doebele of the University of Colorado, Jackson Laboratory, and Champions Oncology for helping to ensure the accuracy of this post.

Q: What is the ROS1 biorepository project?

The biorepository project aims to accelerate research into rare ROS1+ cancers by creating more ROS1+ cancer models.  It will create a process that allows ROS1+ patients to donate live tumor tissue from an already-scheduled biopsy or surgery, and move those tissues quickly (within 24 hours) to a lab that has technology to create cancer models.  The models will be made available to academic researchers at minimal cost to study cancer biology and test new drugs that might be useful in treating ROS1+ cancer. 

Q: Why is this project needed?

Because ROS1+ is a rare cancer, only a handful of researchers currently study it, and their research clinics don’t see many ROS1+ patients.  As a result, only a few ROS1+ models exist.  Thus far, most diagnosed ROS1+ cancers are lung cancers, and biopsies of those cancers typically generate only small tissue samples that aren’t large enough to generate cancer models.  In addition, ROS1+ models are difficult to create—the collected tissues sometimes die despite best efforts, which limits the amount of research that can be done with them.  Without a large selection of ROS1+ cancer models from diverse patients, researchers and drug developers are less likely to find treatments that are effective and tolerable for most ROS1+ patients.

The ROS1der patient/caregiver group currently contains over 120 patients with different types of ROS1+ cancers (e.g., lung cancer, melanoma, angiosarcoma) from 16 countries, and our numbers are increasing.  With this large number of ROS1+ cancer patients, we hopefully can generate many useful tissue samples and increase the odds of creating successful cancer models.

Deciding to donate tumor tissue is not something patients undertake lightly. It requires a personal commitment (as well as planning and coordination) during a time when a cancer patient is dealing with invasive medical procedures and the anxiety of possible or confirmed metastatic cancer progression.  This project will help ease the process by allowing patients to commit to tumor donation ahead of time, when stress levels are reduced and the patient and their healthcare provider have time to have the right conversations and make the necessary arrangements.  And even after patients join the project by signing a consent form, they can still choose later not to donate tissue.

Q: What are cancer models? Why are they useful?

Cancer models are clumps of living cancer cells that exist either in a lab petri dish, or in animal models such as mice.  The best models are derived from actual patient tumors.  Sometimes these models include additional cells, molecules and fluids (the “microenvironment”) that exist near cancer cells in the human body—white blood cells and other immune system cells, proteins, bits of DNA, and such.  These models are kept alive and used to create more cancer cells for current and future research.  Amongst ROS1+ cancers, each tumor can have subtle differences, so it is important to have multiple models to ensure that any treatments that are identified can work for many types of ROS1+ cancer.

These models are valuable tools for cancer researchers.  Academic cancer researchers use them to study ROS1+ cancer cell biology, identify new cancer treatments or treatment combinations, and understand mechanisms of resistance.  Pharmaceutical companies use these models to screen many drugs as the final test before deciding to commit to a clinical trial of a new drug or combination. Diagnostic companies use these models to validate or develop new genetic or other biomarker tests.

Q: What types of ROS1+ cancer models will this project create?

The two types of cancer models our vendors will create are ROS1+ cancer cell lines and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) mouse models.  These models allow us to understand the biology of ROS1 cancers and how to stop their growth or kill these cancer cells. Each model has its own advantages and disadvantages.

What are cell lines?

Cell lines are clumps of living cancer cells grown in tissue culture dishes in the lab.  To create a cell line, fragments from a patient’s tumor are put in cell culture media in a special incubator (see Figure 1), then routinely monitored until cell lines are detected.  The cells will continue to reproduce instead of dying at their pre-programmed time. This creates an ongoing source of cancer cells for research. You can learn more about creating cell lines in this Science magazine article.


What are PDX models

PDX models, or patient-dervived xenograft models, are human tumor tissue grown under the skin of specialized mice whose immune systems have been severely compromised.  The compromised immune system helps ensure the mouse’s body will not attack the human cancer cells.  To create a PDX model, scientists cut a human cancer tumor into pieces, mix it with a chemical that helps the cancer cells survive, and then implant the pieces under the skin of many mice.  Sometimes these don’t “take” but often, each fragment grows.  Once the tumor reaches a certain size, it is removed from that mouse, chopped into pieces and put into more mice. This process is repeated (see Figure 2) until there is enough tumor tissue to put into 100s of mice, each with tumors nearly identical to each other and to the original human patient’s tumor.

making PDX.png

Q: What are the advantages and drawbacks of these models?

Researchers often use cell lines initially to test hypotheses about a cancer, and then later use PDX models to do large-scale drug testing to confirm their cell line results. At present, neither model can be used to test immunotherapy drugs because neither include a functional human immune system.

Cell line advantages:

They grow fast and are relatively easy and inexpensive to store (requires only a monitored freezer) and transport.  They can be used to rapidly and cheaply test multiple drugs or drug combinations.  They can be easily manipulated to study cancer cell biology (for example, what causes resistance mutations) and explore different ways to kill the cancer cell.

Cell line disadvantages:

The processing used to make the cells grow perpetually may favor some cells and allow others to die, so the resulting model does not precisely resemble the original tumor.  The cells change over many generations, so their characteristics may become significantly different than those of the original tumor cells.  They do not include the tumor microenvironment.

PDX model advantages:

PDX models are thought by some to more faithfully represent a human cancer tumor.  They may preserve some of the tumor microenvironment. They are grown in a living host instead of a lab dish. They can be used to simultaneously evaluate the effectiveness of different drug or drug combinations in a living organism, and provide in-depth understanding of tumor response to experimental therapies at a fraction of the cost of a clinical study.  They can be used to identify potential biomarkers of drug response or resistance.  They might allow tumor tissue to propagate longer without suffering genetic degradation. They can be manipulated to create cell lines.

PDX model disadvantages:

They are more costly and time-consuming to make and maintain, because the mice the mice require housing, feeding, and care. Because of this, they are not practical for large-scale testing of multiple drug combinations.  They might tend to propagate only the human tumor cells that are compatible with mouse biology.

Q: How long does it take to create a cancer model?

Successful creation of cell lines and PDX models will require four to twelve months after the tissue donation is received. 

Q: Will my tissue donation result in new treatments for me?

No, these models will not generate new treatments fast enough to help individual donors.  Because creating the models, conducting research, and testing new drugs takes years, the donated tissue will not generate new drugs in time to help those of us who currently have ROS1+ cancer. However, you will be helping to accelerate discoveries and new treatments that will improve outcomes for future ROS1+ cancer patients. Please donate only tissue you do NOT need to make decisions about your own cancer treatment.

Q: What kind of tissue is needed for donations, and how much?

Fresh ROS1+ tumor tissue is necessary for creating successful cell lines and PDX models. Ideally, the lab begins the process of creating the cancer model within 24 hours of collecting the tumor tissue.  The more tissue, the better the chance of success–at least three biopsy cores of tissue (using 19 gauge needles) are needed.

Other types of specimens may also be useful. We are evaluating whether the biorepository will also collect the following

  • Pleural effusion fluid (for creating cell lines and PDX models)
  • Frozen ROS1+ tumor tissue (for extensive genetic analysis–the genetic material is better preserved)
  • Formalin-fixed ROS1+ tumor tissue–the typical storage method for pathology specimens (if this is the only tissue available)
  • Blood, urine and saliva samples (for studying circulating tumor DNA and circulating tumor cells)
  • Healthy tissue collected at the time of biopsy or surgery (can determine which mutations are present in the patient’s healthy cells)

Q: Will all donations create a successful cancer model?

No.  Success depends on many things, such as the amount and quality of the tissue, and the time elapsed between harvesting the tissue and starting the cancer model process.  Estimates suggest 20-50% of donations result in a successful model.

Q: Who can donate tissue?

Any living ROS1+ cancer patient whose tissue was collected in the USA may donate tissue and specimens.  However, because the tissue must be in the lab and ready for processing within 24 hours of harvesting, transportation and/or shipping constraints may make it impractical for some patients to donate. 

We are currently collecting tissue only within the USA because many national and international laws prohibit transferring biospecimens across borders.  We are exploring ways to ensure all ROS1+ patients, regardless of where they are treated, will have the option to donate tissue and other specimens to this project. Hopefully the project will eventually also include a process for patients or their family members to donate a patient’s tumor tissue after they die.

Q: If I want to donate tissue, what must I do?  What will be required of me?

Prospective participants must sign a consent form to indicate their interest in donating, and inform the project when they have an upcoming biopsy or surgery. We will work with you and your healthcare provider to make sure your tissue gets to the right place on time.  We will also collect your cancer medical history records so that researchers will have necessary background information about the tumor tissue (your personal identifying information will not be shared with the cancer model vendors).  Donors will not have to bear any costs of the donation process.  We are currently developing the consent form and the donation process materials which will clarify the process.  After signing the consent form, you may still choose not to donate (but we hope you won’t).

Q: Will the resulting cancer models and associated clinical data be available to all researchers?

Yes. Our goal is to make the resulting ROS1+ cancer models and associated data available to all interested academic researchers for minimal cost. 

Q: Who will create the cancer models?

The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is currently negotiating with academic and commercial labs that create cell lines and PDX models.

Q: When will the biorepository begin accepting tissue donations?

We plan to choose the model vendor(s) by March 3, 2017, and then begin finalizing consent forms.  Distributing & collecting consent forms will be an ongoing process, but we’d like to collect as many as possible in the first few months to help ensure most ROS1ders will be able to make use of this tissue donation opportunity.

Q: I have a biopsy coming up soon.  Can I donate now?

We are working on an interim solution for specimen donation while we finish defining the project.

Reminder: If you would like to help make this project a reality, please use the “Contact Us” form  and let us know.  If you’re a ROS1der and want to help define the project, please post about your interest as soon as possible in the “ROS1 Positive (ROS1+) Cancer” Facebook group.

Image Credits:

Figure 1:  Sara M. Nolte (used with permission of Signals)
Figure 2:  Jackson Laboratories (used with their permission)

#CureChat 1/12: A conversation about precision medicine and clinical trials


I am honored that I was asked to be the featured guest for the #CureChat on Twitter this Thursday, January 12th, 2017 at 1 pm ET.  We’ll be talking about precision medicine and clinical trials.  You can read more about it on the Cure Forward blog.  Hope you can join us!

Chat Topics (from the Cure Forward blog):

T1. Janet Freeman-Daily’s Story (my lung cancer story, told 140 characters at a time)

T2. What does the term “precision medicine” mean to you and how does it connect to clinical trials?

T3. Tell us about the ROS1 Mutation.

T4. What were your biggest fears and misconceptions about clinical trials before finding out about them via an online community?

T5. How did it feel to be accepted into a trial? What emotions, and why? And how did you manage them?

T6. What are some of the positive aspects of clinical trials that most people don’t know about?

T7. Please share some online resources where you find trustworthy info for lung cancer and clinical trials.

You can follow the conversation in Twitter by entering “#CureChat” in the search box to filter tweets.  However, if you haven’t joined a tweetchat before, you may find the conversation easier to follow if you use a tool designed for tweetchats, such as  To use, do the following:

  • Login to Twitter (you must have a Twitter account to do this)
  • Type “” in the URL of your browser, then hit the “enter” key. The entry page will appear.
  • Type “#CureChat” in the box that says “enter hashtag,” then left-click on the colored box that says “Start Chatting.” You will be taken to a page that has a big blank textbox at the top, and a list of recent tweets that contain the hashtag “#CureChat” below.
  • Left-click on the link just below the textbox that says “sign in.” A popup window will ask if you want to authorize to access to your Twitter account. Left-click on the box that says “authorize app.” You will return to the page.
  • Left-click on the link above the textbox that says “hide retweets.” This will eliminate duplicate tweets and make the conversation easier to follow.

Now you can follow the #CureChat conversation on the page.  If you want to contribute to the conversation, type your own tweets into the textbox at the top of the page. will automatically add the hashtag #CureChat to the end of your tweet so your tweet will appear in the conversation.

However you choose to follow the chat, if you want to respond or direct a question to someone in the chat, be sure to include their Twitter handle (e.g., @JFreemanDaily is my handle) at the beginning of your tweet.

Thanks to Liza Bernstein (@itsthebunk) and the Cure Forward team for inviting me to be their guest in this chat.  I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!  I will post the link to the Storify summary of the chat HERE once the Cure Forward team posts it.