Were the Beatles Wrong About “When I Am Sixty-Four”?

October 5, 2014
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cancer researcher ESMO 2014 Congress

Interviewing a cancer researcher at the ESMO 2014 Congress

cancer researcher ESMO 2014 Congress

Interviewing a cancer researcher at the ESMO 2014 Congress

I was worried about wasting away. But I am happy to tell Ringo, Paul and George that today I am 64 and feeling strong, vibrant, and not headed to living in a cottage and sitting by the fire. Too much to do! I am writing this from Madrid and the ESMO – European Society for Medical Oncology—2014 Congress, and I am happy to report there’s a lot of positive energy here. Not every new medicine being studied is panning out. Today we heard about some studies that washed out. No benefit. But we are also hearing about other studies that are a big deal, great progress with women with an aggressive type of breast cancer, progress in helping advanced cancer patients gain weight, avoiding nausea and vomiting during chemo, less fear about chemo during pregnancy. And so it goes this year, two steps forward, one step back, at different rates for different cancers or even subtypes of cancers—a lot of hope here, less hope there. Cancer is not one disease. It may be a thousand. And among patients, journeys vary greatly.

Andrew Schorr and patient advocates

Andrew flanked by powerful patient advocates

The buzz on the horizon, maybe closer than we think, is about immunotherapies. Can we use new drugs to stop healthy cells from giving strength to cancer cells? Can we retrain our immune system to fight the cancer it missed the first time? Doctors are excited about this prospect, and some drugs are here or coming soon. How much of a difference they make and for what cancers isn’t totally clear yet. We’ll hear more at the cancer meetings that follow in the U.S .and here in Europe.

But, for me, aging at 64 today, I am happy there is a lot of activity and that Patient Power—and me personally—is part of it. We used to see 64 on the cusp of retirement. We also used to see cancer diagnoses universally as the beginning of the end—happily, not so much today, and not for me. I hope, not for you too!

Be sure to check out our new videos being posted from here at ESMO. And if you have one of the conditions that’s the focus of one of our upcoming town meetings in myeloma or myeloproliferative conditions, I hope you can join us in person!