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Caregiving for a Wife with Cancer, by Cameron Von St. James

The day my wife was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma is one that I will never forget. Just three months earlier in August of 2005, we had celebrated the birth of our first daughter, a little angel we named Lily. Unfortunately, just before Thanksgiving that year we received the news that my wife had a rare and extremely deadly form of cancer.

All of a sudden, I was the caregiver for a person with cancer. My role started before we even left the doctor’s office with the diagnosis. The doctor gave us three options for Heather’s treatment. We could seek treatment at the local hospital, head to a regional hospital or go to a hospital in Boston with one of the leading mesothelioma specialists in the world. My wife looked at me with a pleading look to save her in her eyes, and I instantly said we have to get to that specialist in Boston.

The next few months soon overwhelmed me. I could now only work my formerly full-time job part-time, but I was busier than I had ever been before. In addition to taking care of Heather, I had to take care of our baby girl as well.

There were times that this role as the caregiver and rock of the family completely overwhelmed me. I would suddenly find myself feeling broken down, overwhelmed and helpless. However, I always managed to pull myself together, and I never let Heather see me when I hit rock bottom. I knew I needed to be strong when I was with her so that she could lean on me for support during her difficult battle with cancer.

It was amazing to see how many of our family and friends reached out to us while Heather was getting treated for mesothelioma. People gave us time, money and kind words, and all of this help gave us the strength to keep fighting on. Anyone that faces a similar situation should take advantage of any help that people around them are willing to give, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. This job is hard enough as it is; you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.

Being a caregiver for a cancer patient is something that is incredibly challenging. There are a lot of dark moments and chaos where you don’t know if you will ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. The most important thing is to never, ever give up hope. Always keep fighting for a better tomorrow.

After radiation treatments, chemotherapy and surgery, Heather is now completely free from cancer. It has been over seven years since her terrifying diagnosis, and she remains healthy and happy to this day. Now, we hope that by sharing some of our experiences, we can help inspire other currently going through their own battle with cancer today.

Read more from Cameron Von St James’ blog here

Genetic testing: NHS ‘must back revolution’

BBCGenetic testing: NHS ‘must back revolution’

By James Gallagher, Health and science reporter, BBC News Jan 2012

Genetic code The cost of working out a patient’s genetic code is falling

Related Stories

Putting genetic testing at the heart of the NHS could herald a “revolution” in diagnosing, treating and preventing disease, according to the government’s genetics adviser.

Prof Sir John Bell has been presenting a report on how the NHS should prepare for advances in the field.

He said missing out would come at a high cost to patients.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has announced plans to speed up the introduction of genetic cancer tests.

One of the problems with modern medicine is that some of the definitions of disease are too broad.

Prof Bell told the BBC: “Breast cancer has always been defined because it is a tumour in the breast.

“But if you look at the molecular detail of those cancers, some are much more similar to ovarian cancers than they are to other breast cancers, in molecular terms and in terms of their response to therapy.”

Target treatment

Cancer drugs are generally effective in fewer than one in three patients who take them, the report says.

“Innovation in any setting has to deliver a much better product or lower cost, or both, and I think genetics may be one of the things that does both”

Prof Sir John Bell Chair of Human Genomics Strategy Group

The theory is that by looking at which genes are active inside a tumour, it will be possible to pick the correct treatment.

This is already happening in some cases. Bowel cancer patients with the defective gene K-RAS do not respond to some drugs, while the breast cancer drug herceptin works only if patients have a specific mutation, HER2.

One of the driving forces behind genetics in medicine is the plummeting cost of working out a patient’s genetic code. To sequence one patient’s genome once cost millions of pounds but it now costs thousands, and Prof Bell argues that in the future, the “cost could be essentially nothing”.

Prof Bell has previously accused the NHS of being “completely unprepared” for advances in the field of genetics. He has called for ministers to develop a strategy which would see the NHS adopting genetic tools, and training current and new staff in genetics.

He also wants a national centre which could store genetic information about patients who were sequenced. It would allow doctors to compare mutations in the genetic code with other patients who had the same mutation, to help plan treatment.

“We want to make sure that all patients can benefit from these tests”

Andrew Lansley Health Secretary

Prof Bell acknowledged that reforming the healthcare system to take greater account of genetics would require investment, but he added: “Innovation in any setting has to deliver a much better product or lower cost, or both, and I think genetics may be one of the things that does both.”

More testing

The government has yet to formally respond to the recommendations. However, Mr Lansley has announced plans to develop a new way of introducing and funding genetic tests for cancer.

“We want to make sure that all patients can benefit from these tests – as soon as the tests are recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence),” he said.

He compared the genetic code to a treasure map, saying the Xs were starting to appear, and that the promise of the field was “immense”.

The chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said genetics was “terrifically exciting” and would have an “increasingly important role” in areas such as cancer screening.

However, she said she was “quite worried” about some of the consequences, such the possibility that telling patients they had a low risk of developing lung cancer would give them a licence to smoke.


A trial of methotrexate for cancer that has spread in people with a faulty MSH2 gene (MESH)

A trial of methotrexate for cancer that has spread in people with a faulty MSH2 gene (MESH)

This trial is looking at the chemotherapy drug methotrexate for people with a MSH2 gene fault who have cancer that started in the bowel, stomach, womb (endometrium), bladder, or lining of the urinary system (urothelium) and has spread.

Every cell contains DNA. This is the genetic information which controls how cells behave. In cancer cells, the DNA is changed or damaged. Cancers can have different types of changes in the DNA. One of these is when a gene called MSH2 is not working properly.

Doctors often use chemotherapy to treat cancer. But sometimes the cancer comes back after treatment and spreads elsewhere in the body.

Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug that is used to treat some types of cancer. We know from research that methotrexate kills cancer cells when the MSH2 gene is not working properly. Researchers want to find out if it will help people with a faulty MSH2 gene who have cancer that has spread.

The aims of this trial are to

  • See how much methotrexate helps people in this situation
  • Learn more about the side effects


Start 08/04/2009

End 08/04/2014


Phase 2

Who can enter

You can enter this trial if you

  • Have cancer that started in your bowel, stomach, womb, bladder or urothelium and has grown into surrounding tissue, or has spread elsewhere in the body
  • Have cancer that did not respond to, or has come back after, treatment with standard chemotherapy, or you cannot have standard treatment for some reason
  • Have a MSH2 gene fault (the doctors will do tests to confirm this)
  • Have satisfactory blood test results
  • Are well enough to take part in the trial (performance status 0, 1 or 2)
  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Are willing to use reliable contraception during the trial and for 6 months afterwards if there is any chance you or your partner could become pregnant

You cannot enter this trial if you

  • Have already had treatment with methotrexate unless it was for a non cancerous condition and you finished treatment at least 5 years before you were diagnosed with cancer
  • Have had any other cancer in the last 10 years apart from non melanoma skin cancer or carcinoma of the cervix and the trial doctor thinks this could affect you taking part in this trial (If you have Lynch syndrome, you may be able to take part if you have had other cancers – the doctors will advise you on this)
  • Have had radiotherapy to a single area of cancer (a lesion) that the researchers will be measuring in this trial, unless the lesion has got bigger since you had radiotherapy
  • Have another medical condition that cannot be controlled with medication
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

Trial design

This phase 2 trial will recruit 56 people. Everybody taking part will have methotrexate.

You have methotrexate as an injection into a vein. The treatment only takes a few minutes. You have another injection a week later and then 2 weeks without any treatment. Each 3 week period is called a cycle of treatment. You have up to 6 cycles of treatment. But if the treatment is helping you, your doctor may talk to you about having it for longer.

During the trial, the researchers will take samples of blood, urine and a hair follicle (such as from an eyebrow). And they will get a sample of the tissue taken when you had surgery to remove your cancer or when you had a biopsy.

The researchers will use the samples to try to find substances they can measure in the body to help them tell how well the treatment is working. They call these substances biomarkers. And they will use the blood samples to look at your genes. This is to learn more about how genetic changes can lead to cancer and whether certain changes affect how people respond to treatment.

The trial team may also ask your permission to take an extra biopsy during treatment. This is to learn more about what effect the treatment has on the genetic make up of your cancer. If you don’t want to have this extra biopsy, you don’t have to. You can still take part in the trial.

All samples will be stored safely and may be used in the future, but only for research purposes.

You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire before you start treatment, just before the 2nd and 4th cycle of chemotherapy, and every 3 months for a year after you finish treatment. The questionnaire will ask about any side effects you have had and how you have been feeling. This is called a quality of life study.

The trial team will also ask you to fill out a short questionnaire which asks about other members of your family who have had cancer.

People taking part in this trial may also be asked to join extra studies looking at PET scans and MRI scans. Doctors want to find out if these scans can provide more information about bowel cancer with a faulty MSH2 gene.

You may be able to take part in one or both of these studies. Whether or not you are asked to take part will depend on where you are having your treatment and also where in your body the cancer is.

Hospital visits

You will see the doctors and have some tests before you start treatment. The tests include

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • Heart trace (ECG)

You go to hospital twice in each 3 week cycle of treatment. You have regular blood tests. And after 9 weeks of treatment you have a CT scan to check that your cancer has not got any bigger. If the scan shows the cancer has grown, you will stop having the trial treatment and the doctors will discuss other treatment options with you. If the cancer has stayed the same size or got smaller, you will have the next 3 cycles of treatment and then another CT scan.

After you finish treatment you will see the trial doctors and have a CT scan every 3 months for up to 1 year.

If you do take part in the MRI or PET scan study (or both), you will have extra scans

  • Before you start treatment
  • After 2 weeks of treatment
  • When you finish treatment

Having an MRI scan takes about 15 to 30 minutes. If you have PET scans, you have an injection of a small amount of a radioactive drug first. Then you have to wait an hour before having the scan. The scan itself can take up to an hour.

Side effects

The side effects of methotrexate include

There is more information about the side effects of methotrexate on CancerHelp UK.

Location of trial

Top of Form

  • London
  • Sutton

For more information

Please note: we cannot help you to join a specific trial. Unless we state otherwise in this trial summary, you need to print this page and take it to your own doctor to discuss.

Find out how to join a trial or contact our cancer information nurses for other questions about cancer by phone (0808 800 4040), by email, or at

The Information Nurses

Cancer Research UK

Angel Building

407 St John Street


Chief Investigator

Professor David Cunningham

Supported by: Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Study to test spice curcumin’s ability to fight bowel cancer

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A UK trial is investigating whether a curry ingredient can improve the treatment of patients with advanced bowel cancer.

Scientists will supplement standard chemotherapy with pills containing curcumin, a compound found in the yellow curry spice turmeric.

Laboratory tests have suggested that curcumin can boost the ability of chemotherapy drugs to kill bowel cancer cells. The compound is known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also acts as an antioxidant.

Turmeric powder 薑黃粉

Turmeric powder 薑黃粉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some studies have indicated it may slow the spread of cancer, improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and protect healthy cells from the effects of radiotherapy. However, hard evidence from properly conducted scientific trials is lacking.

The two-year trial, by scientists from Cancer Research UK and the University of Leicester, aims to recruit about 40 patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver.

Trial leader Professor William Steward, director of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre at the University of Leicester, said: “The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side-effects and can keep having treatment for longer.”

Read more here

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