Gary Malloy

Consultant / Advisor,

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What role does personal DNA play in CANCER TREATMENTS?

I am a 10 year, stage 4, Head/Neck cancer survivor. I have always been very interested in why the same protocol for me (chemotherapy/radiation) failed on others. What underlying role does our DNA play in this.

Nina Tandon, has been kind enough to share some of her thoughts and views with me. Besides DNA, environment, age and other personal issues may be a part of this.

I would like to start a conversation with those who have and interest in this subject and their thoughts on the subject.

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    Jan 5 2013: Hey Gary, I am a 56year old, 4 year, stage 4 metastatic malignant melanoma cancer survivor. I was treated over the course of a year with a variety of different chemotherapies and the summer of that period simultaneously with radiation. Oddly I didn't loose my hair, though I did suffer a few nasty side effects, extreme nausea (though effectively controlled with meds), weight-loss, ect. Not a complaint, just reporting as I've only gratitude and praise for the people who helped me through it. Though the initial prognosis was dismal, I've made it to the fifth year. And this past September was generously treated to another round with prostate cancer which so far appears to be in check after radical surgery.

    I don't believe we know enough about cancer and survival ratios to discount for certain any possible reason for some of us surviving and others not under similar circumstances. Though I was and continued to be a pack-a-day smoker, I eat healthy, am lean, don't drink or party to any degree of excess. So maybe DNA is a factor. I can also attest to the fact that inspite of my dire prognosis, I didn't freakout, get depressed, I remained generally upbeat. I think keeping a positive attitude was also helpful. Ofcourse having a little ADD helped too…..giggle…

    What is "well understood and reliably established" today may fall out of fashion tomorrow and what is speculative may find favor with research…..we are often told everyone's body reacts differently to treatment, so if our personal biology is such that we succumb or are cured and DNA is our personal biological template then…..
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    Jan 1 2013: I am concerned that you may not find here the expertise you seek in this very important and specialized area.

    Sites that might have the best current understanding of such potential are the Nation Cancer Research Institute, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the National Institutes of Health, and the Mayo Clinic. I would expect them to distinguish clearly in the information they offer what is now well understood and reliably established (within accepted scientific standards of error) and what is mostly speculative.

    Wishing you the very best of health in this new year.
  • Jan 1 2013: "I have always been very interested in why the same protocol for me (chemotherapy/radiation) failed on others. What underlying role does our DNA play in this."

    DNA does not play a major role in this. The reasons chemo and radiation therapy doesn't work for some people are:

    1) these therapies are damaging to the body, a person who is weakened by old age, unhealthy lifestyle or late detection of the cancer can die from the chemo or raditation therapy itself

    2) when a tumor is buried very deep in a vital organ it is very hard to treat with radiation therapy

    3) when the cancer has spread throughout the body it cannot be stopped by chemo or radiation therapy because that would require such high doses that the patient would die from them

    4) failure to detect remaining tumor fragments in the body, causing the cancer to come back quickly