The monoclonal antibody drug, ipilimumab, which is the subject of the NYTimes article cited above, was also the theme of the #1 most-read and e-mailed article in 2010 on CancerNetwork.com, one of the top online sites for oncology information. "Ipilimumab and melanoma: Rejoicing, disappointment and threat," was written by another distinguished medical reporter, Lois Wingerson, with whom I crossed paths years ago when I was editor of Diagnostic Imaging. Lois’ story is a concise summary of how ipi works and puts its clinical prospects into proper perspective. She’s frank about calling out clinical researchers for having hyped the prospects for monoclonal antibody drugs in general.
“This (the development of ipilimimab) is not a miracle tale. It's a gritty reality, with as much disappointment as rejoicing, and also a hint of threat.”While tracking news about melanoma I also stumbled upon a story posted this week by the Associated Press, “Cancer survivor aims to raze barriers with app.” It’s remarkable how a brush with cancer can bring out the creative energy in some people. This story relates how a melanoma survivor in San Francisco who happens to be an e-commerce businessman wants to capitalize on the so-called open science movement to develop a computer app for the sharing of cancer research and treatment data.
"I'm just trying to pull together all the pieces that are needed to do a real, rational attack on cancer," (Marty) Tenenbaum says. The way to do that, he says, is to pull people out of their individual labs, offices and hospitals to collaborate in a way not possible before the Web and mobile technologies made it easy to pool vast amounts of information.I’m all for advancing cancer treatment and research by forging connections on as broad a scale as possible. We need to know what works. None of us should have to claw our way through the maze of treatment options, clinical trials and research, as Tenenbaum did, in his effort to survive. Patients need help to effectively advocate for themselves. Easy access to a critical mass of information that's shared electronically by physicians, scientists and patients would be a boon. The collective wisdom of us all could then be brought to bear on the challenges we face in negotiating our way through the perplexities of cancer care.
"How much of cancer could be turned into a manageable disease if we only knew what we knew?"