An article published Thursday in the journal Science describes the treatment of a 43-year-old woman with an advanced and deadly type of cancer that had spread from her bile duct to her liver and lungs, despite chemotherapy.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute sequenced the genome of her cancer and identified cells from her immune system that attacked a specific mutation in the malignant cells. Then they grew those immune cells in the laboratory and infused billions of them back into her bloodstream.
The tumors began “melting away,” said Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, the senior author of the article and chief of the surgery branch at the cancer institute.
…[T]he report is noteworthy because it describes an approach that may also be applied to common tumors — like those in the digestive tract, ovaries, pancreas, lungs and breasts — that cause more than 80 percent of the 580,000 cancer deaths in the United States every year. (New York Times)
[S]he bought [a] plan and was approved on Nov. 22. Because by January the plan was still not showing up on her online Humana account, however, she repeatedly called to confirm that it was active. The agents told her not to worry, she was definitely covered.
Then on Feb. 12, just before going into (yet another) surgery, she was informed by Humana that it would not, in fact, cover her Sandostatin, or other cancer-related medications. The cost of the Sandostatin alone, since Jan. 1, was $14,000, and the company was refusing to pay. (WSJ)
Here are results from a 2008 paper on the relationship between breast cancer and type of health coverage in Rhode Island. Covering all breast cancer cases registered from 1996 to 2005, the data once again suggest that the uninsured fare almost as well as people on Medicaid.
The table below lists tumor size and stage at diagnosis by type of health coverage. When breast cancer victims on Medicaid are compared to those with private insurance, those on Medicaid have larger tumors at diagnosis and higher stage tumors. They also have more node positive tumors — tumors that have already spread to lymph nodes. This is cause for concern as survival rates are better for small tumors, tumors that are node negative, and those at stage 1 or below. Women on Medicaid who do have early stage tumors are also less likely to have surgery and, if they have surgery, to have surgery that removes only a part of their breast.
As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations. Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else. That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology…
Maybe someday some of us will live to be 200. But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer. (More)