Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Illinois Chapter: Lymphoma treatment — ever changing, ever improving
Client: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Illinois Chapter
Thousands of people stricken with leukemia and lymphoma are searching for information about their diseases, for people sharing the same experiences and for the scientists who are performing cutting edge research. And thousands of others want to support those researchers who make a difference through fundraising. The Illinois Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society LINK newsletter brings them all together, giving hope and inspiration as well as critical information about the fight against blood-related cancers to researchers, funders, survivors and their families throughout the state.
Sample: Lymphoma treatment – ever changing, ever improving
In the twenty years he has been treating lymphoma patients, Dr. Parameswaran Venugopal has seen some big changes, with the most dramatic coming in the last decade.
The first, and most recent, breakthrough the doctor will tell you about is the ability to use DNA to predict how a patient will respond to treatment.
“Right now, many a time, we give the treatment and find out at the end if it worked or did not work,” explained Dr. Venugopal, who serves as the Co-Director of the Rush Cancer Institute Lymphoma Center in Chicago. “But now we have the ability to look at the DNA pattern of lymphoma. From the pattern we will be able to predict which patient will respond to a particular treatment. Right up front you can say, ‘This patient should get this treatment.’”
Then he’ll tell you about how new chemo treatments have made some of his patients positively scarce. “Some patients had to come every day to the clinic, but now they just get one shot and it lasts for two weeks.” And he adds that much more treatment is outpatient-based now, so patients can be at home where they are happier… and healthier. “The hospital is the worst place to keep a patient, because the bug you see in the hospital is already resistant to a lot of antibodies. I always encourage my patients to get out as quickly as possible. And the patient’s psychological status is significantly better in the home compared to being in the hospital.”
But perhaps the biggest change Dr. Venugopal has experienced is in his own faith in the human spirit’s ability to affect treatment. “When I started treating cancer patients 20 years back, I did not believe much that the patient attitude toward the disease, or will power, those kind of things, had influence. I thought it was the chemo or the care I gave,” he admitted. “As years go by, I become more and more convinced that patients’ attitudes toward the disease and treatment and the physician treating them makes a difference. Sometimes it has an impact as good as the treatment I give.” The doctor said he has two patients right now, close in age, with polar opposite reactions to their disease. One said from the start, “I’m going to beat this,” and is now leading a normal life. The other is depressed and dejected, hardly ever getting out of bed, unenthusiastic about his treatment, and the doctor hasn’t been able to get his cancer under control. “There’s a lot of influence the mind has on the body. It’s not only the patient but the family’s approach, their psychological approach, also influences the outcome.”
Dr. Venugopal’s own inspiration to get into the field of blood-related cancers may have given him his first hint at how the mind and heart affect illness. The doctor speaks of his role model, a teacher in medical school in India, at a time and place when diagnoses were not based on test results so much as they were on a good conversation with a patient.
“It was an art to make the diagnosis, and that guy used to do it in a manner that was amazing to me,” he explained. “The compassion he showed toward the patient – I developed an admiration for him.”
Looking back at all the progress and successes in lymphoma research, many of which lead cancer research throughout the world, this is one doctor who remains unabashedly optimistic.
“My vision for the future for a lymphoma patient is that the patient comes to me, I make a diagnosis on not only the type of lymphoma, but I should be able to do tests on the tumor and diagnosis which will tell me the exact treatment the patient needs, and that that’s the treatment that cures the patient. That’s the way I envision treatment in the future. It’s not just science fiction. There are very good indications it can work.”
Lymphomas, New Drugs,
New Outlook, and New Challenges
Thursday, May 29
4 to 8 p.m.
Radisson Hotel O’Hare
6810 N. Mannheim Rd.,
Rosemont, IL 60018.
For information, call
Susan Tybon at (312) 726-0003.