Saturday, January 19, 2008

Update of the Update

Hello again,

Not too long after I sent out my update, I heard back from my local doc. He had already talked with Dr. Keating at M. D. Anderson about what they thought I should do next. I didn't expect a reply so fast. I thought it would at least be next week. Anyway, they were going to discuss the two opposing plans for my next therapy, standard chemotherapy (which is not curative but can "buy" more time), or the new, unproven procedure, which has yet to cure or even really help anyone. Plan A or Plan B. Well, I wish I had been privy to the conversation they had, because when they finished their discussion they decided on neither plan. Instead, we're going to consider "Plan C!" Now, "Plan C" is yet another experimental protocol, but using some standard anti-cancer drugs in a new way. If you want the gory details, the protocol is:

Now, this protocol starts with a combination of Fludara, Cytoxan and Rituxan (or "FCR") which is the combination of drugs I was given back in 2002. It worked quite well. In fact, it worked so well, that we had to stop the regimen early because my white count went too low and I was at risk for infections. What's different about the protocol is that now they want to add a drug called Avastin to the mix to see how it works. Avastin is a monoclonal antibody (like Rituxan) but it inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor (the endothelium is the lining of the blood vessels), which causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in tumors, and accelerates the tumor's growth. Avastin has been around for a while and is used a lot, but as far a I can tell, it's just been used in solid tumors like bowel cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer. But, like so many anti-cancer drugs, Avastin has some potentially significant side effects:

(I don't expect even one of you to read through all that stuff, but just a glance will tell you it's a serious drug)

The side effects and complications include bowel perforations, kidney damage leading to dialysis, bleeding into your lungs, severe hypertension, some rare form of brain damage, and a lot more. Wow! But I'm puzzled about why they're wanting to consider this drug in my case, and in the case of any patient with leukemia. Avastin works by controlling the growth of aberrant blood vessels in tumors. But I don't even understand, yet, why Avastin should work in leukemia, 'cause as far as I know, there aren't any aberrant blood vessels to control. Anyway, at this point I'm waiting for a call back from MDA to get an appointment, hopefully soon, to get in to discuss the new protocol and get set up for the treatments. Apparently what they'll want to do is schedule the first series of infusions down there in Houston and then I can have the next several month's infusions back here in Denton.

Stay tuned.