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Myeloma Patient Profile: Sharing My Cancer Journey with My Daughter

Part 1

Myeloma Patient Profile: Sharing My Cancer Journey with My Daughter Part I from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

In this part one of three, Lori’s Sackett shares the journey of her multiple myeloma. She explains some of the symptoms she was facing before diagnosis to having to advocate to receive next-generation sequencing testing.

Stay tuned to hear Part 2 & 3 of Lori’s story!

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Myeloma Patient Profile: Jeff Boero

When Jeff Boero shares his multiple myeloma patient journey, it’s clear that self-education has been a vital part of his experience. He was first diagnosed through his primary care physician who referred him to a general oncology group in the San Francisco area. They confirmed it was multiple myeloma. It soon became clear to Jeff and his wife that he perhaps needed a second opinion, and he was connected with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to their multiple myeloma specialist. 

The second opinion changed the approach to Jeff’s care rather dramatically. He was quickly scheduled for a stem cell transplant and subsequent maintenance after that. As Jeff recalls, “Through UCSF, I became eligible for a CAR T-cell immunotherapy trial in 2017. That was very successful and kept me disease-free and medication-free for about 2-1/2 years. And then I relapsed and went on another maintenance program. I became eligible for another clinical trial for a bi-specific T-cell engager (BiTE) that I’m on now and am having good results.”

Jeff was almost in complete denial about his diagnosis for the first 6 months. The diagnosis threw him into a world of terminology and treatment that was completely foreign to him. That sense of his diagnosis feeling foreign also started to lead into a certain level of depression — just not knowing what it is, how is it going to be treated, what it meant to his long-term survival. Jeff remembers, “So, with the encouragement of my wife as caregiver, I became more educated as I engaged in various conversations with specialists and participated in some of the PEN webinars. It  became clearer to me about what some of the options are and what they can be. Being engaged with UCSF really opened up the treatment options. With me becoming more educated and able to speak the language of myeloma, I was starting to understand the diagnosis as it was presented by UCSF. And it led to a much richer engagement in conversation with the oncologist and with the nurse practitioners.” 

As a cancer patient, Jeff views self-education as the key to empowering patients toward better care. It was through self-education that he learned about other options. Before becoming more educated, Jeff was mostly just listening and trying to absorb as much as he could and seemed to remember mostly bad news. According to Jeff, “There’s so much good news around myeloma treatment and available therapies. It was through self-educating and those conversations that my outlook brightened too.”

By patients educating themselves, they can start to ask questions about the clinical trial like: “What is it, and why is it going to show better results than my maintenance therapy?” And in conversation, patients can start to better understand the purpose of the clinical trial. “I think it’s important for patients to understand what they’re trying to accomplish through the clinical trial that wasn’t through their maintenance therapy. What is it about this trial that’s different that we haven’t addressed previously?” But patients can’t ask those questions unless they have at least a basic understanding of their cancer and how the various therapies approach the cancer cell. “But if you listen to webinars and things like that, you’re better able to have those conversations. As a matter of education as these opportunities arise, you’re able to have a much richer conversation with your oncologist and your care team about the benefits that could potentially be derived from the clinical trial.” 

Clinical trials have benefitted Jeff, and he recommends seeking an opinion that is dedicated to research of your specific cancer. Learning institutions have more access to emerging research and treatments that likely won’t be FDA-approved until 2 or 3 years later. “So if you as a patient can be at the forefront of some of these trials, that can be tremendous. I’m on therapies now that didn’t even exist when I was diagnosed. Research is moving quickly.”

Jeff senses some hesitancy among patients about clinical trials. “There’s this misconception that if you join a clinical trial, one group is getting the real stuff, and one group is getting the placebo. And the trials that I’ve been in, everybody gets the real thing, and everybody’s progress is tracked on their response to the real thing.” He knows trials can seem intimidating. Jeff went through his initial clinical trial, because he was almost out of options for conventional maintenance therapy. His cancer burden continued to increase, and he’d been through a number of different treatments. “The CAR T-cell program came up and seemed to be a perfect fit for me. So I did the clinical trial partially out of necessity, but I also had extreme confidence in my oncologist that he was promoting something that he thought would be most beneficial for me. I think it’s a matter of putting trust in your oncologist. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve had good results and good response to both clinical trials.” He also feels that the sponsoring institution will give an honest appraisal of where the program stands and what the progress and success has been up to that point. 

Reflecting on the value of Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) and other resources, Jeff says, “I’ve gotten so much out of the PEN webinars that are provided and some other organizations. I’m a slow learner in this area but am absorbing as much as I can. I need to hear the same thing a few times before I start to absorb it and fully understand it. So I rewatch the PEN webinars, and it works for me.” He also suggests learning as much as one can but was advised early on to stay away from Google. “There’s so much out-of-date information. Whereas websites like Patient Empowerment Network’s and others have updated information that’s far more relevant. And I also find the navigation on the PEN website very easy to use.”

After meeting patients who don’t have the same level of health insurance benefits, Jeff feels a sense of gratitude. “I had tremendous support from my employer who in essence said take the time you need to get yourself well again. So I have a lot of gratitude for that support, my wife as caregiver, family, social support, my faith community, and for my proximity to UCSF that makes treatment very practical and very possible.” It’s opened his eyes in that regard. There are so many benefits that he has that others don’t have. “I’ve joined various support groups initially to gain support. Now things have come full circle, and I find that I’m at the other end of the conversation to give people comfort in what they could possibly be doing to improve their situation.”


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Is It Too Late for a Myeloma Second Opinion?

Path to Empowerment: Multiple Myeloma | Treatment

Your Path to Empowerment | Myeloma: Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Navigating treatment for multiple myeloma can easily become overwhelming. What education can you receive prior to treatment or what impact will a specific treatment have on your daily life? Hear from a panel of myeloma patient advocates who share their personal experiences, advice and various resources.

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Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Okay, hello and welcome to our Path to Empowerment Living with Multiple Myeloma program here at Patient Empowerment Network. I am the myeloma Empowerment Lead here at Patient Empowerment Network. My name is Lisa, and I’m also a myeloma patient diagnosed back in April of 2018, I started having a pretty significant pain in my hip about one or two years before I was diagnosed, how to spine x-ray didn’t show anything in about five months later, went in for an MRI and was diagnosed with a large plasmacytoma that had eaten away a part of my spine, I have been fortunate enough to have care at MD Anderson. I was able to go down there, both for my spine and for my cancer. I met with the radiation oncologist immediately upon going to MD Anderson, who had me go through eight sessions of radiation. My treatment consisted of the radiation and then spine surgery to support my spine because my spine was compromised and close to the tumors close to my spinal cord, all of that was followed by… I met with myeloma specialist, Dr. Karina Patel at MD Anderson, and she wrote my prescription and orders for chemo to be done back in my hometown in Boise, Idaho. 

So, I came home for six months of chemo, and I had it every week for three weeks on one week off, and my chemo treatment consisted of KRD, which is carfilzomib, Revlimid and Dex also known as Kyrpolis, Lenalidomide and Dexamethasone. I did have that for six months on, like I said, three weeks on one week off. Had a great response. My last treatment that I had, I followed that up by going to Seattle to have stem cells collected and was also re-staged, my cancer was re-staged in Seattle was MRD negative, ten to minus five, but at that point, I opted to wait to have my stem cell transplant until first relapse, and since then I’ve been on maintenance therapy for about three and a half years, Revlimid also called Lenalidomide was on it every day until about a year ago when I was given one week off after three weeks on and for the past 10 weeks, I’ve been completely off of maintenance therapy due to side effects of getting progressively worse, including neuropathy and digestive side effects, so that is my history with myeloma, we are very fortunate today to have two other patient panelists, Jim and Sheri, who will introduce themselves. 

I’m going to back up for just a minute, people like to know the type of myeloma we have, I have kappa light chain only myeloma, which means I do not have an M spike, I’m followed with the free light chain that shows kappa light chains in my blood and also a 24-hour urine, that shows Bence-Jones proteins in the urine. So, kappa light chain only, my cytogenetics, I feel like I have to share my zodiac side too, but my cytogenetics are translocation, 11, 14 and monosomer 13. So we’ll move on to our patient panelists, welcome them. Sheri, she’s a support group leader for the International Myeloma Foundation here in the Treasure Valley and Boise, Idaho. So Sheri, if you could just introduce yourself, please, and explain your history with myeloma, the treatments you’ve had, current status and type of myeloma. That would be great. 

Sheri Baker:

I’m Sheri, and I was diagnosed in October 2011 with IgG Kappa myeloma. We found my myeloma because through blood work to check, just kind of more of a routine check, it was discovered that I had kidney failure, and my kidneys were only functioning at 8%… Normally should be 100% or close to that, so 8% kidney function. Didn’t know why. It took a couple of weeks and a bone marrow biopsy to figure out that it was because of myeloma. So, IgG Kappa, but no cytogenetic markers now, high risk markers, just standard, normal myeloma, but it did attack my kidneys versus my bones, very minor minor small lesions that I had. Anyways, that was 2011, in October, within a couple of weeks, I started dialysis and started my first treatment, which was in 2011, they weren’t really doing doublets and triplets very much, so it was, well, a doublet, if you want to consider Velcade, which is bortezomib plus Dexamethasone. So, I was on those two, and I did four cycles from October to the end of December to get me ready and see if I had a good response for a stem cell transplant. 

I had a stem cell transplant in March of 2012, I got a very good partial response for my stem cell transplant, still had a small M-spike, but because of the dialysis and my kidney issues, I decided not to do maintenance therapy, I’m really the only or the standard maintenance therapy was Revlimid, and I know Revlimid can be tough on your kidneys, so I decided after researching it and talking with my doctor not to do maintenance therapy, so I was off of therapy for two years, but my numbers had started to increase. So in April of 2014, when faced with having to go back on something, I asked my doctor if I could do Velcade again because I’d only done it for four cycles, really only about two months’ worth, and he looked into it and said, yeah, so that’s what I did for six years, Velcade as therapy, maintenance therapy, if you want to call it that, but I did it solid three weeks on, one week off for six years, when that started to quit working and I started looking at changing treatment again. I changed to Darzalex Faspro, Revlimid this time at a low dose and Dexamethasone. 

And it has been two years since I started that treatment. I’m now on monthly Darzalex, and I stopped the Revlimid in February because again, lower blood counts and it could be tough on your body, and I stopped the dexamethasone as well, so I’m only on Darzalex once a month, and it seems to be holding. It did finally put me into a zero M spike, complete remission, which I really hadn’t been in 10 years, so that’s a good thing, and I’m still holding my own with that right now, so that’s my story. And I was able to get off of dialysis. I was only on dialysis for two years, and my kidneys recovered just barely enough to stop dialysis and they have slowly improved over the 10 years or over the eight years, and my kidney functions generally around 25% right now. So that’s where I’m at. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you. Well, thanks Sheri. Jim, if you would please introduce yourself and give a little bit about your history and the treatment that you’ve had. 

Jim Bond:

I am James Bond, and I’m the real James Bond, I’m not the movie actor. And my beautiful caregiving wife, Kathleen, if she were here with me, you would believe that I am the real James Bond. But I was diagnosed in 1992, so that was 30 years ago, and I was at stage three with Kappa light chain, like you, Lisa, and I’ve had some treatments during those 30 years, and I can recap those for you. It’s pretty easy. The first 10 years I had three transplants, there were no current day modern drugs for myeloma available, and I was one of the pioneers in the clinic trial that got Velcade approved. In fact, it saved my life when I was told to go to a hospice and I was lucky enough to get in the trial, and that was up in Boston, away from our home, and home run got saved and Velcade got approved, and I’ve really not been in danger with myeloma since then, although I have been in a total of six clinical trials, including Revlimid that you’ve been on Lisa and help that one get approved, but ever since, Velcade my myeloma has not been life threatening.   

Another highlight of the treatments that you asked her to sell is that I did get treatment-related leukemia, and they’re not… Positive why. One of my transplants, I had to have full body radiation as part of the protocol, and I took some other drugs like Melphalan and we all have to take for transplant, but those were leading suspects of what may have caused the treatment-related leukemia. But I was very, very fortunate and they were able to find an unrelated donor, and I haven’t matched my stem cells, and I had a fourth stem cell transplant over a decade ago, and that put the leukemia in remission and where I remained today on both cancers side note to the last allo transplant, my four transplants break down two autos and two allos, but my last allo was from a woman living in Germany and it kind of explained to me why ever since that transplant, I’ve had this urge to go to October Fest. 

More seriously, I’ve had some serious side effects, the most prominent of which is graph vs host disease from the other person cells, which affects my skin, my gut, and surprisingly the surface of my eyes. I had to get special contact lenses that I have to delicately put in, take out every day to return my sight to normal, but it’s worked out really well.   

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you, Jim. And I’ll just provide a quick reminder that this program is based solely off of our patient experiences and should not be substituted for medical advice, so please see your physician or any qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about your medical conditions including myeloma. You do have an opportunity to ask questions of the patient panelists at the end of this program. If you use on your zoom, there should be two little buttons one a Q and A function and one a chat box, submit your questions there and are behind the scenes, producer will be watching for those questions, and our patient panelists are available to answer those questions at the end of our program, just that reminder, but with our medical disclaimer.  

So, we’re going to jump right into our questions that we have now for the patient panelists, and Jim, I think I’ll start with you, you already established some of the treatments that you had, but sometimes when I go to our support group meetings for which Sheri leads this group here locally, people will say things like, I really wish I had known this about treatments. Is there any one or two things that you wish you had know looking back now, that you wish you had known going into any particular treatment that you do know now?

James Bond:

Yes, there are a couple that stand out and they’re the subject not only of my book and our talks, but I started doing episodes, four-minute episodes on YouTube, and one of those episodes is on my experience with using steroids, which one or both of you mentioned Dex is one of the components to one of your treatments. So, dexamethasone is the most powerful steroid that I use, and it was required with getting me ready for my first second, third and fourth transplants, and it was also a steroid that was used for a while I did do maintenance before I got leukemia. And the thing I wish I had known about steroids from beginning is after I had a hip or one of my two hips replaced, the hip surgeon told me, Jim, you cancer patients are higher risk for needing to get a hip replaced. Something called avascular necrosis because of the long-term use of steroids that you’re required to do. Well, when I found that out. It’s been 15 years ago. I started challenging my doctor, I said, look, can we try that maintenance that you’ve got me doing, but do it without the prednisone steroid, and he balked at that because that wasn’t the way that they were doing it. 

But I said, how can we work it out? Because I’d really rather not get the other hip replaced, lower my risk, and we agree to something in between, and he said If you’re willing to come in here every six weeks and monitor your blood, that I’d be happy with you staying on no maintenance. So that’s really what I’ve been doing. And I know that earlier on, I probably would stop the prednisone earlier on, there’s nothing I can do about the dex required for getting me ready for the transplant. That was part of my story. But that would have been helpful to know.  

 Lisa Hatfield:

So, one of the questions too that somebody asked me a while back, had been diagnosed for a few years, gone through induction, stem cell transplant, lived in the Boise area, had never seen a specialist. Can a person, if they haven’t seen a specialist from diagnosis or can they seek advice of a specialist anywhere during their myeloma journey?   

Sheri Baker:

Yeah, I think so, for sure. For the first, probably two and a half years, maybe. I didn’t consider seeing a specialist because what I was doing was pretty straightforward, I had standard risk myeloma, and I was a newbie, I was a rookie, and I just kind of went along with what my doctor said to do, and I don’t think I did anything wrong; I don’t think I made a wrong turn; I should have done something different. But the more I started reading and researching, the more I realized that being with someone who deals with just myeloma and a large number of myeloma patients, because like Jim said, everybody’s myeloma is different, so when you see someone who’s dealt with a variety of myeloma cases and can see the differences, it’s helpful, so that’s when I saw… It was probably closer to three years in my journey before I saw a specialist, and then I didn’t have… And I saw that specialist, I saw her for a couple of years, once a year, kind of a thing, and my myeloma was stable. Once my myeloma changed and I wanted to see somebody closer to home, relatively speaking, I changed specialist because it was easier to see and travel to, and again, I knew my myeloma was on the rise again, and I wanted to get a specialist opinion, because there are so many choices of treatment and this was just two years ago. 

And the landscape of myeloma had changed drastically, so I really wanted to see a specialist and find out… Now, what do I do now that I’m making a change? And so, I think anywhere in your journey, if you’ve never seen a specialist, you can certainly see one, and I know as a support group leader, I’m very happy that I have convinced some members of my support group to see a specialist because their myeloma is getting tricky to handle… And they need someone who has seen more cases and has a better idea of where, what they should do at that point. 

Lisa Hatfield:

How did you choose your myeloma specialist? 

Sheri Baker:

It was funny, my husband said, we’re going to go see a specialist, we’re going to see one of the best, so we kind of looked at the top 10 list, we went off of a website that had done a lot of research and ranked enlisted specialists and this specialist at Duke, my son was living in North Carolina and we thought, Well, she’s one of the best. We can visit him and we can go to the specialist, so that’s why we chose to go all the way across country and see a specialist. 

Sheri Baker:

When I changed specialist, one of the reasons was my son had moved back to Idaho, I didn’t need to go to North Carolina anymore, and I had met this specialist in person, really liked him, had a good rapport, my husband met him at a patient conference and really liked him as well, and he said, we should see if we can switch. And see him now because it’s closer, and I just really like him, so that’s how I made my decision there. 

James Bond:

One of the questions on the homework was, so what about access to treatments? And I’d like to say something about that. We had to pull up stakes at the drop of a hat and relocate 600 miles from Cleveland, Ohio to Boston, Mass for this all important turned out to be a Velcade trial and we were able to do that financially. I had a great job, I was still working, great insurance. And my wife and I looked at each other and thought, what about people who don’t have the resources to do this? And my wife is a 40-year volunteer for the American Cancer Society, and she’s become a real leader with them, including the national board of directors. Well, she pointed out that that’s why the American Cancer Society has over 30 hope lodges around the country, where cancer patients and a caregiver stay for free while they’re being treated typically for an out-of-town treatment they can’t get at home. 

And that’s really good information for people to know because even though there’s only 30, there are a lot of cities and states in our country, the American Cancer Society has a relationship with at least one hotel chain where they can help with very inexpensive accommodations while you’re out of town for cancer. So, the American Cancer Society, 24 hours, seven days a week, support line. It’s really some place to look, if you’re having trouble with finances on getting out of town. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Thanks, Jim. And you mentioned something too, I think we’re all on board with our feelings that seeing a specialist is critical on your myeloma journey at some point, however, that requires the financial means to be able to do that, to be able to travel, to pay any co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses that you might accumulate from that, or even when we went down to MD Anderson, I was scheduled to go to appointments for five days, we stayed down there for a month because I had to have an emergency spine surgery. All of those are unexpected expenses, so I just want to say if anyone has questions, as they’re watching this feel free to contact me. I have an email, cure4mm@gmail.com. It’s the number four. I won’t know all the answers, I have a lot of great resources, including Sheri, who leads our support group to help try to find resources for people who are seeking a second opinion or a myeloma specialist. Even if it’s just once during your myeloma journey, please reach out because there are resources out there, whether it’s through the IMF or the LLS, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, there are resources, it’s critical to seek out the advice of a specialist at least once during your myeloma journey. 

So just wanted to put that out there. And Jim, I do have another question for you. I did read your book, I have it right here. Thank you for doing that is a very easy to read book and it provided a great perspective on because myeloma is incurable, how can we live with this for 30 years, and still live our lives while going through treatment after treatment, and you had great insight and inspiration in your book about that. So, thank you for putting that out there, but it brings up a big question that I had, and I still have… You had talked about the plasmacytoma that had developed on your head and had radiation, and I think it was that point, I have ear marked in the book, one of my big… I’m terrified when I ask a question of a doctor, because I’m afraid it’s going to appear that I’m questioning their expertise, if I disagree with the treatment or if I’m uneasy with the treatment. I have a hard time saying, hey, I think that this might be a better option for me. Well, in your story, you had during this time of this plasmacytoma, you mentioned that you were on a maintenance drug, your doctor, one of your doctors wanted to add a second drug, I believe, to your maintenance regimen, just to make sure that everything was knocked down as much as it could be your abnormal proteins for increasing, you felt you just want to increase the dose of the one drug you were on rather than adding another drug. 

My question for you is, you did approach your position, you had a method of doing it… How did you do that? 

James Bond:

Yes, that was the most contentious I’ve ever been with my myeloma expert, Paul Richardson. He and I and my wife are really good friends, I mean that. We’re talking close friends. So, I was at that point where I was on a little bit of a maintenance drug, I think it was Revlimid and my protein started to go up, and Paul wanted me to add Velcade to it. Well, my strategy is I wanted to hold on to Velcade in case my life was ever in danger because it was one that really saved me when it was, and so I resisted and I said, Paul, let’s just try increasing the dose. And he resisted, and there was a little contentious over the telephone, finally… And here’s the key, we have had a really good relationship with Paul’s oncology nurse, Debbie. Debbie is now retired. Debbie said, Jim, let me talk to you privately. She and I got on the phone primarily without Paul, and she said, Jim, here’s the thing, you’re not going to convince Paul based on the myeloma knowledge, he wins that argument every time because he knows it. She said, what you can make progress on is what you’re comfortable with, and if you come out of it at a standpoint say Paul, I’d be more comfortable trying to increase my dose and give it a month and see how that goes. 

That worked like a charm. And so, it was a study nurse who got involved, saw that she had two people who were kind of dug in and listened to her closely, and that really mitigated what could have been a difficult situation. Here’s the really surprising thing and great thing is then after I had the dose, and he had me do another this and another that to make sure there was no other problems in my body, and when the protein went down at the higher dose, I thought he might be a little bit remissed, dumb luck or not my call worked out. First thing out of his mouth on the phone was Jim, good call. Good for you. So that’s the kind of guy he is. He puts ego aside and he just wants to do the right thing for his patients. Same Doctor called me at 8 O’clock at night. I was having real difficulty with that fourth transplant, the one for leukemia, I was there for 75 straight days, and he called me one Sunday night and assured me I’d make it through. That meant a lot to me at the time and it still does and that did help me get through with the thing. 

So, our relationship with doctors is really important, and you’re right, not to want to rile your relationship with your doctor, but the words I’m more comfortable with go a long way with me and my doctor. 

Lisa Hatfield:

That’s a great piece of advice going in, especially for those of us who don’t want to question the medical expertise to say something like that, I’m more comfortable with this, and then they can consider it, and I think it’s a team effort, it’s a collaboration when you’re dealing with the lifelong disease like myeloma it has to be a collaborative effort. For the best outcome, so that.   

James Bond:

We look at it like you know the science and the biology, and that’s great, but we know 30 years of history and we know our own risk tolerance, and by putting those two together and collaborating, like you said, was… I think we get the best to answer. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Yeah. Great, thank you. So, Sheri, I know that you have gone through… Well, you had dialysis, there are all kinds of treatments that are involved with myeloma, we have radiation, we have surgery, we have chemo, some people have dialysis, stem cell transplant, so focusing on the chemo aspect, because I believe every myeloma patient will have chemo at some point. Some of the questions that come up with that, or what is that like when you go and did you… When you were first diagnosed, were you able to do some of your own prepping to develop questions, and did somebody prep you? Did they provide any education? What should it even look like when you went into the chemo… What did it feel like when you walked in there? I just figured when I went in, it would be people laying in bed getting sick, they’re all going through chemo, and nobody would have any hair, 80% of the people had hair still, so what was it like for you when you first started chemo? What kind of education did you get and what did it feel like just walking into that chemo suite the first time? 

Sheri Baker:

Well, it’s funny because it was almost 11 years ago, and it’s very different than it is now, there was kind of no real walking you around the chemo Suite and what not in my case, I think it’s because I saw my doctor downtown in Boise, but because I live in Meridian, just outside of Boise, I went to the facility that was there because it’s a little closer to home for most of my treatments, but I liked my doctor who was downtown, so I wanted to go there so anyway, I think because I was back and forth between the two, maybe.

But now I know that they have a program with new patients where they walk them around, they show them the chemo suite, they show where you’re going to get your treatments, and so it’s very different from when I first went in 11 years ago. In fact, when I went in, I really didn’t know what… I knew what the name of the treatment was, but I did not know anything else. I didn’t know how it would be administered, nothing. And they had just started in our hospital here locally, they had just… And I think most of the country had just started switching over from Velcade, which was given in the IV form in the beginning for years to the sub-q injection. So, when I sat down to get my first chemo, because I didn’t know any better, the nurse started an IV in my hand, but then somewhere along the lines in my head, I was like, I thought this was going to be a shot, but I just didn’t know what they were doing… And so, I asked her, I said, aren’t I supposed to get this as a shot in my arm at the time, I thought… 

And she’s like, oh my gosh, I am so sorry. And ended up taking the IV out, and to this day, I still tease her about that. But yeah, I feel like I was a little unprepared, I don’t think the hospital necessarily did a good job of preparing in the beginning, I think they have gotten much better about that, but I do always try to… I try to help the hospital from a patient perspective of, you really need to do this when I was a brand-new patient, this is what I would like to have had. I would like someone to have told me about a support group, I would like them to have told me what my treatment was actually going to be like on that first day, and I think they’re getting better about that, but a lot of that is on us as being your own best advocate, you know, like Jim said, you know they know the myeloma stuff, but you know your body, you know yourself, you know what you’re comfortable with, so you have to ask, at some point in my six… Six years of getting Velcade after I relapsed the first, probably two years, I got the shot in the back of my arm because that’s what everybody did, but then I read about it online and… 

Yeah, you can’t trust everything you read online, you have to be careful. But I read that it was… A lot of people were getting it in their belly, that it was originally intended to go in your belly, and I asked about it and they’re like, Well, yeah, we can do that, and now most people I know at the clinic do get it in their belly, so it’s just a matter of educating yourself and asking questions, and don’t hesitate to ask a question, that’s the only way that you will get answers, it’s the only way you learn, and sometimes it helps educate the doctors and nurses around you as well. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Thanks. So do you think of a patient… A new patient is going into chemo, it’s really uncomfortable. Do you think they would be able to ask, hey, can I have a tour of the chemo suite the week before or a day before my treatment begins. Do you think that would be a reasonable question?  

Sheri Baker:

I think it’s definitely a reasonable question, and obviously cancer centers across the country, I have no idea how they do it, but I know ours here locally is getting better about doing that, it’s a process now, before your first treatment, they’ll walk you around and show you everything so you have an idea of what to expect and you’re comfortable or as comfortable as you can be on your first treatment day. 

Lisa Hatfield:

I have one more or two more questions I’m going to have… I wanted to ask really quickly, both of you can respond to this Jim, we’ll start with you, during all of your treatments, have you had any unusual side effects that nobody was able to explain or that you hadn’t heard of prior to starting that treatment?   

James Bond:

Yeah, probably the emotions got away from me at one point, I lost my temper when I shouldn’t have, and I attribute that to everything about that. I don’t know if it’s just steroids or just the treatments or what… But I like to ask questions, I’m not afraid to ask questions. And I read the signals to my family that I needed to do something differently, and I asked my oncologist who had to become really good friends with here in Cleveland and he recommended a professional and I sought his help, and he sat me down and he gave me some really good advice that I still live by. So, you know, that’s something I didn’t expect and I don’t know if I could have prepared for it, but just being flexible in letting your ego leave at the door step and just realize, hey, you need these people’s help to get yourself going, and just accept, in my case, accept that I’m not as young as I used to be for one, 73 is not 43. And there’s certain things I just can’t do anymore. So, you just got to kind of roll with that, so I hope that’s of some value. 

Lisa Hatfield:

So, Sheri, I know you had an unusual side effect because we talked about it, it was to Revlimid, and I remember getting the same side effect early on in my treatment, I was a really, really itchy scalp in the middle of the night, scratching… And the pharmacist actually talked to, didn’t even know about it, so you and I talked about that, that was one of my unusual side effects that a lot of people didn’t know about. Have you had any other unusual side effects that even your providers were a little bit curious why that was going on, and you think it was from the treatment?   

Sheri Baker:

When I was on Velcade, I kept getting styes on my eye like right in my eye lash line, upper or lower. And we think that now that that… I’ve seen a lot of other people comment on Velcade, they have that as well, but at the time, doctors didn’t really seem to know that that was a side effect of the Velcade. I think that’s why it’s so important when you have a little… I shouldn’t say little, any kind of side effect or something that you have and you should ask and you need to report it to your doctor and kind of report it to the pharmaceutical company because if these things are happening with other patients, but nobody tells the pharmaceutical company then they don’t know that’s a side effect of that particular drug, so that’s probably one of the ones that we weren’t sure that and a lot of cramping, hands, feet, my face, that’s what led me to get blood work in the very beginning when I first got diagnosed was an excessive amount of cramping in my legs and feet, but after I started Revlimid, I had a lot of cramping, cramping, like my face would cramp, cramping in my hands, and we lowered my dosage of Revlimid and that did help, but I don’t know how many people get that to the point where I couldn’t even drive the car, my hands cramped up so bad that I had to pull over until the camping stopped because both hands were cramping, so those are probably the more… 

 I don’t know if they’re unusual, I think a lot of people may get them, but not an easy thing to solve, an itchy scalp…That is crazy. That is crazy. I just saw someone who just quit Revlimid and then got the itchy scalp and she asked, has anybody gotten that when they quit the Revlimid because she goes, now that I’ve been off of it, I have a really itchy scalp, like you say, the cancer itself is different in everybody… And then everybody’s side effects are just slightly different, so… 

Lisa Hatfield:

I think you’re right, that’s why I like talking to other patients because these unusual things the doctor does not know what it is, but you talked to somebody else, like I had that same exact thing happen. You’re right, I reiterate what you say let your provider know when you have side effects and maybe even let the pharmacy or a pharmacist at the cancer center now so they can report that accordingly.  

So that’s my last question is one takeaway that both of you have, whether it has to do with the emotional or mental health challenges of having myeloma or just dealing with even more acute things like, oh my gosh, I’ve got a new treatment, how to deal with that emotionally, one take away that each of you has to help my myeloma patients as they go through the treatments with myeloma. Sheri, do you have one thing that you can leave everyone with or talk about the emotional challenges that you have, how you’ve dealt with them?   

Sheri Baker:

You know, I think that I am different than most people in the beginning, it was a devastating diagnosis. When they tell you three to five years, that’s devastating, because then you start… I was only 49 so you start thinking about all the things that you thought you were going to have in your life, watching your kids get married, having grandchildren, retiring together, living out your… traveling, doing all these things you think you’re going to do, and when you get that first diagnosis it just throws everything in the trash can and so the first six months to a year probably, I focused a lot on that, but then you start to adapt and you’re living with it, and it’s not as bad as what you thought it was going to be in the beginning, and it’s a cancer that we will live with the rest of our lives most likely, hopefully 30 years like Jim. I’ve made it almost 11 years, which didn’t think would happen in the beginning, so now… It’s just part of my life, it’s like, I hate the term, that it’s a chronic illness. I don’t like that it is still cancer, it is not just a chronic illness, but yet that is how we live with it every day, like if you have diabetes, you get up and you take your insulin or whatever, you take every day for diabetes, same thing I get up every day, take a whole host of pills, go once a month for a treatment that keeps me going, it’s just a part of my life now, but being a patient advocate has made it a little different where it is always in the forefront of my mind. 

Everywhere I go, everything I do, I think about it from the support group standpoint or for me as a patient standpoint or whatever, but I think I like Jim, I do that maybe I need to not think about it so that I don’t get burned out. But I’m one of those people that has always had a positive attitude about it, and I feel like for me, it’s been easier to deal with than what a lot of other people go through, which is one of the reasons that I’m glad I started the support group to hopefully help people deal with it a little bit better, but yeah, it definitely changes what you thought he… And Jim was young when he was diagnosed, it changes what you think your life… The rest of your life is going to be like… You know, at least that little map you had in your head of how things would go, but I am just… I don’t know, I just deal with it, I think easier than a lot of other people, it’s never been out of my head to say to have a positive attitude, and I know people get sick of that, you got to have it. 

It’s all about the attitude, but that’s just been easy for me and that’s how I’ve always been… My whole life has been on the upbeat side. So, it’s been lucky for me. 

James Bond:

Thank you for being a support group leader, you help many others, they’re closing thought All The you with us. When we have this incurable deadly disease, keep making your long-term plans don’t feel like cancer will get in your way; you have to change a plan so be it. Keep making your plans. Live your life. You can do it. Hang in there. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you so much to both of you for those positive words of wisdom, keep making your plans. The first thing I did when I found it was telling my husband, we have to update our will, so we move forward with our plans for travel and that type of thing. Great advice, and I really appreciate that. So, thank you to both of you so much for your information and for sharing your experience. We’re going to move on now to the Q and A section, so I’ll remind everybody who is watching this to use the little buttons at the bottom of your screen, the Q and A function, the chat function, and our producer will be forwarding those off to our patient panelists. Thank you.  

Well, welcome everybody to our live Q and A session, as you can see, it’s a different day, that was a pre-recorded session, so I’m going to welcome back Jim and Sheri, and they will be on to answer questions. We have a number of questions on the Q and A, we have a number of questions that were submitted via email and during registration, we’ll get through as many of those as we can, I just want to send a reminder to everybody that we are not…   

Your healthcare providers, we’re just strictly speaking from our own experiences, patients, we encourage you to talk to our healthcare team, and even if you get one little piece of information from this program and you’d like to take that back to your doctor… I’m sure they would be willing to talk with you about that. So please remember that as you’re asking questions to questions a little bit more general, and to understand that we can’t answer medical questions directly, but we will speak with our own experiences to your questions. I’m going to jump right in, and one of the questions that was submitted during registration will start with that, this point will be for sharing, and again, she can’t necessarily speak to the efficacy of treatment, but she can speak to come experience. So, the question is what other effective treatments are there for those in multiple myeloma remission, besides Revlimid. If you could just review again, you were on Revlimid for maintenance therapy. I assume this person is referring to maintenance therapy. What other medications have you been on? And again, she’s not endorsing these medications. She’s just strictly maybe giving you some ideas to talk to your doctor about. So, Sheri? 

Sheri Baker:

Yeah, in the beginning, when I decided to start treatment again, because I didn’t do maintenance right after my stem cell transplant, but when I decided to start treatment or needed to start treatment again, I was on Velcade. My husband always called it being on treatment, not maintenance, because it was three weeks on one week off, and I did that for six years, so that along with dexamethasone for probably two of those six years. That is a treatment option, and it’s typically an upfront treatment option for people, and it can be… I know quite a lot of people who are on Velcade as a maintenance program, there’s obviously Revlimid. And I’m on Darzalex now, which again was given when my cancer markers and numbers, my M spike was increasing and I needed to change treatment, so I was given Darzalex, Revlimid, and Dex, and I’m still on Darzalex now as by itself, if the Revlimid had not lowered my blood count, so drastically and they weren’t bouncing back on my weeks off, I would have still been on Darzalex and Revlimid as maintenance, but now I’m just on Darzalex maintenance. So, those are some options that I’ve had experience with. 

Lisa Hatfield:

And that’s great to hear because I know that kind of the go to for maintenance is Revlimid. That’s what I’ve always been on, so I don’t have experience with anything else, and as long as you were talking, Sheri there was a question that you were going to answer live about what you would do differently if you were diagnosed, could you answer that question for the audience, please?  

Sheri Baker:

Yeah, you know, years ago, before I was on Revlimid, in my head, I said If I had it to do differently, again, I do two things, one, I would have consulted with a specialist right from the very beginning, and through that, I probably would have gone ahead and gone on Revlimid maintenance after my stem cell transplant, even though I was on dialysis, because a couple of years later, speaking to a specialist, she said Revlimid can be dosed accurately to not totally affect your kidneys. So, looking back, I would have seen a specialist and I probably would have done some sort of maintenance therapy right after to give me a longer time before changing treatments. But now that I’ve had 18 months of experience with Revlimid and the way it was for me, by lowering my blood count so badly, I think now that I’m okay that I didn’t do any maintenance for two years, so that’s kind of a tough choice, but I would definitely have seen a specialist right from the get go. 

Okay, that’s good advice. Jim, how about you? Is there any piece of advice, if something you might do differently if you were diagnosed today? 

James Bond:

Very little. We try not to look back, we try to stay in the moment as best we can. I think all cancer patients, including me when into it with the idea that the doctor and nurses, they really had all the answers, we really should follow everything they say, but as I got more and more experience along with my wife… I guess looking back, maybe I could have spoken up earlier. For example, I haven’t done maintenance in 10 years, and that’s not the preference of my doctors, that’s my preference, and I’m willing to go ahead and get my blood checked every six weeks as something to make us kind of reconcile with the two views, but they’re just human beings like the rest of us, and I think just opening up and becoming… Developing a good relationship early is really helpful and it worked out, but maybe focusing on that more at the front would’ve helped.  

Lisa Hatfield:

Well, thank you for that. So, we do have a lot of questions about side effects and how to deal with those. I wanted to make a comment, we did have a question that came in via email, are red blotches on arms and legs and the chronic post side effects of Revlimid 5 milligrams taken while in remission. And just to answer this a little more generally, I think that your doctor may tell you, I told me that any medication can cause almost any effect that it’s hard to know which effects come with which medication. From my own experience, I did develop red blotches on my arms and on my hands, and they actually got swollen, and I did look at their website, it’s Bristol Myers Squib now formerly Celgene that manufactures Revlimid. That is a common side effect, both the rash and also the chronic cough, something you should definitely talk to your doctor about though, it’s always nice to kind of see those images… I actually was going to print a picture of what the rash looks like on my back, I also got it on my back, but I wasn’t sure my producer who’s also my boss would be super thrilled with me putting that you know on a live program.  

I know from my experience; my doctors did say that that rash on my arms and on my back and on my torso was caused by Revlimid. And when it comes to side effects, another comment I’m going to make about clinical trials is when clinical trials are done, they’re looking at the maximum tolerable dose of a medication not the minimum effective dose. So, for anybody who’s experiencing side effects, it might be helpful to ask your doctor if there is a lower dose that you can take of that medication and see how it goes, and we’re not saying that’s the best idea for you, but working as a team with your doctor, he or she may have an idea of how to reduce to that dose to see if the side effects can also be reduced with that. So, I’m going to move on to another question about, have either of you had different experiences with foods or supplements? I see that Sheri said that she does use… I don’t know how to say it, Curcumin. I don’t know if that helps. I don’t know if there’s any… There’s a study being done on that right now at clinicaltrials.gov.  

If you look it up and you can just search for that. Jim or Sheri, have you found any… Have you used any foods or heard from your providers that certain foods may help with not only the cancer, but also with side effects? Jim, do you want to start with that one?  

James Bond:

Sure. One point during one of the drugs I was taking, I also developed cramps, my cramps would be at night in my legs, and I was trying to sleep, and when I brought that up to my nurse and doctor… My nurse said, Jim, this doesn’t work for everybody. It might not work for you, but if you try just having a little bottle of tonic water next to your bed, the quinine that’s in tonic water, if it’s okay with your system, that may help and… It really did help. And so, for a long time while I was taking it, whatever drug it was, I’d take a few steps of tonic water and it made the cramps go away, so that was… That was one. I’m not sure I could think of another one. Why don’t you go ahead, Sheri.    

Sheri Baker: 

Yeah well, pickle juice is another thing, talking about foods or things that may help with the cramping, but I know that there are certain drugs when you’re on them, certain treatments when you’re on them that you maybe should avoid… I think Velcade is one, you shouldn’t be drinking green tea or grapefruit, it supposedly lessens the efficacy of the drug. Asparagus is another one, but those are all things that I would just maybe eat in moderation. Having kidney issues, I’ve always had to watch what I eat in relation to dairy products, and anything that has phosphorus in it, nuts are high in phosphorus and all dairy most dairy is high in phosphorus, so my kidneys don’t process it well because of the reduced function. But as far as the actual myeloma, any foods, obviously a Mediterranean diet, Whole Foods, anything like that’s better for any of us cancer or not, but in particular with the myeloma… No, I don’t know. Anything that’s said, eat this and you’re going to do better or don’t eat this because it will make your cancer worse.  

Lisa Hatfield:

And one thing I would comment on too is if your cancer center has an Integrative Medicine department, that might be a great place to go visit to ask them that question too, and I know they have other therapies like massage and acupuncture. 

We had a nutritionist or dietician for a while, I’m not sure if she is still there, I know they have one in the cancer center itself, so that might be a place to go and look into that too. Moving on to another question that’s a little bit different, is there’s somebody who’s asking online about wanting to know a couple of people have asked about a cure, if there’s an algorithm for a cure. And I probably will ask Sheri that question in a moment because I’m not certain yet. I’ve heard some things from different webinars, but there was another question on that same one,  is it possible to have bone marrow transplant or CAR T, I’m kind of skimming along here for storage stem cells over two years or five years or ten years longer? I think that that person is asking, can those stem cells be used? I’m guessing that… I do know from my specialist, she said that she has used stored them cells thirteen years after they were collected and they were found to be viable and it was a successful stem cell transplant, so that would be something else to ask your doctor is if you have had those stem cells collected stored, how long are they viable for and are they useful if you need a time company that they can best be viability.  

Sheri Baker:

I don’t think those can be used for CAR T though, because those are… Those are different cells. They’re harvesting T-cells versus stem cells.  

Lisa Hatfield:

Yes, you’re right. So, thanks for that clarification, Sheri. Yes, they may be used for stem cell therapy or even for… I think there’s something called stem cell boosting, if somebody needs to have their stem cells boosted or transplanted. Again, something to talk to your doctor about, which should be great. This is a really quick question; I think it’s a solid… I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if either of you do, but can a myeloma patient be an organ donor? Do you know that either one of you?   

Sheri Baker:

I don’t think so, especially because myeloma being a blood cancer and it’s systemic running through our body, I think even if you were at MRD negative, I would not think… And I don’t know 100%, but I would think you’re not eligible. 

James Bond:

I don’t even like the mosquitoes to bite me. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Jim, when I was on Revlimid, I had three years, no mosquito bites, I think they knew not to bite me, so I’ve been off of it now for a couple of months and I have gotten eaten alive by mosquitoes just saying, maybe they know something too.  

James Bond:

Maybe, they do.   

Lisa Hatfield:

Go ahead, Jim.  

James Bond:

Well, in terms of supplements, checking with your medical team is vital, no matter what it is, wherever I mentioned about tonic water, check with your doctor first because I was amazed when I had a cold years ago, and I probably reported to my doctor is through cold medication I was taking… And he said, Jim, don’t do that without asking me that contains zinc, and zinc is bad for your kidneys, and my kidneys are okay, but they’re not great, and so that was a good lesson in things. Even if it sounds faint, it could not be hurtful. It’s wise for us blood cancer patients to check with our medical team first. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Sure, yeah, good idea, Jim, thanks for that. Sheri, there are a couple of questions that have come in via email during registration, and now I see one that’s on the chat. If people don’t have a local support group or group to go to, what are some options for them to find a virtual group or to find a group to attend?  

Sheri Baker:

Yeah, so I’m involved with the International Myeloma Foundation and our support group who prior to covid was meeting in person, but we’re now meeting virtually, sometimes maybe a hybrid where some of us are in person and some are virtual. So, if you go to myeloma.org, you can look up support groups, and you can find support groups that are meeting virtually. I mean it’ll take you to their different websites, which will tell you whether they’re meeting virtually or in person still, and so you can join those from anywhere, you just send an email to that support group leader and tell them you’d like to join their next meeting, and they can send you the link. Also, Health Tree Foundation has all virtual support groups, and they are done geographically, they’re also done whether you’re smoldering myeloma or MGUS, different people who are on different types of treatments, so they have virtual support groups based on the Mountain West, Southern California, several in Florida. 

People who have patients with young children, they both, International Myeloma Foundation and Health Tree have Spanish-speaking support groups, so there’s a lot of options out there for virtual support groups and you can join from anywhere in the country.  

Lisa Hatfield:

Thank you. Okay, that’s great advice on that, trying to skim through some of these questions also, so there were a couple of questions also, that came up regarding using novel therapies and not going down the stem cell transplant. So autologous stem cell transplant, Jim has had an allergenic transplant, which is not very common anymore, the stem cell transplants have been the standard of care, I also opted to delay mine. There was just at the most recent ASCO, Dr. Paul Richardson, who Jim knows from Dana Farber, completed the determination trial, which had two arms to it, and I’ll just go briefly through this because we’ve had several questions with two arms, one was BRD plus stem cell transplants plus Revlimid maintenance until progression. The other arm was VRD, I can’t remember now if there’s consolidation therapy, I don’t know if you know that Sheri, but no stem cell transplant, Revlimid maintenance until progression. Basically, the findings on that were really interesting, they found that progression-free survival increased for those patients was great for those patients who did have the stem cell transplant, however, that did not translate to overall survival benefits. 

The one caveat to that was for patients who reached MRD negativity after induction, they saw the same progression-free survival, it was similar for both the transplant and the non-transplant arm. It’s a really interesting study. Dr. Richardson explains it really well, I just listened to Sheri had mentioned Health Tree, so if you go to Health Tree’s website and look up, I think it’s called myeloma radio or something. Jenny Ahlstrom from Health Tree did an interview with Dr. Richardson about this determination trial, really interesting. For those of you interested in hearing more about stem cell transplant versus no, stem cell transplant., that would be something I would recommend. We’ve several questions about that. Okay, so we’ve got just a few more minutes left. We’re going to save these questions and we can reach out to you via email if you provided an email address, I do want to look up the organ donor question and might try to post that somewhere because I’m curious about that myself. We’ve got a few, too many questions to answer.  

Sheri Baker:

Lisa, can I say something real fast? There was at least one question about African-Americans. I would like to say that both International Myeloma Foundation, which is at myeloma.org they have a program called M-Power, they’ve done presentations, you can find those on myeloma.org about myeloma related to the African-American community, and also health tree also has another…  

They also have an initiative, again, specifically for black Americans, well, just African-Americans in general, no matter where we live in the world related to myeloma, and so my advice would be, go look at those and definitely, just like you do, Lisa and Jim and I both do you have to be an advocate for yourself. You have to be your own best advocate when it comes to your cancer, no matter what your ethnicity or nationality is, and so the best thing you can do is speak out, but in particular for that subset of myeloma patients, go look at those websites for more information.  

Lisa Hatfield:

Great, thanks Sheri. Jim, there were a couple of questions that came up for you, and I will mention that your book is called The Man in the Arena. it Could be ordered via Amazon. There’s a link that I think was put in the chat or in the Q and A, but one of the questions, I think it’s relevant because this does come up with some patients been treated for myeloma, the question is if you get… What types of leukemia did you get? What was your second cancer that you developed? Somebody’s asking if that was MDS? 

James Bond:

Well, it started out as MDS, and the progression from MDS to the type of leukemia, it was AML leukemia. The progression from MDS to AML is detailed in the book, I would like to make sure you understand the profits from the book go to cancer charities, so the book was only written to try to give some people some out there. 

Lisa Hatfield:

Yeah, alright, thank you, Jim. And I know there is some concern when people go on these therapies something, they need to talk to their doctor or they’re specialists about what are the short-term side effects of every medication, and also ask what are the potential long-term side effects? That’s something that I’ve always been cognizant of. and a little bit worried about, so something to not only ask the question about, but to keep an eye on too. So I just want to comment too, I’ve had a couple of people ask about chemo brain, the brain fog, the kind of fatigue and one person mentioned clumsy feelings, so when it comes to chemo brain, I have found… We can mention that to our providers and the nurses, and that it’s just something you’re going to have… But that’s hard to hear that what I have found is that when I talk to other patients, when I go to the support groups, when I have met patients like we’re doing here, and hear their stories, it almost makes me feel like I’m not alone, so when people are going through that. And there’s one person here who I saw comment on other myeloma patients who seem to know exactly what I’m describing. 

That is one of the benefits of connecting through these webinars and through some of the support groups, is we kind of understand each other, it helps us understand or support each other because we understand each other.  

James Bond:

One of my doctors gave me great advice in that regard, he said to me, Jim, you have to remember you’re older now than you used to be. So, guys, it’s not all cancer.  

Lisa Hatfield:

That’s true, that is true. So I’m going to put my email address here; this is super unprofessional and my engineer husband would be dismayed because I’m not very text-savvy. This is my email address, cure4mm@gmail.com It’s probably backwards too… Sorry about that. I put that out there, just so that if you do have questions, you could email me. I may not have the answer an oftentimes don’t have the answer, but I usually call Sheri if I don’t because she can find the resources.  Please feel free to email me directly if we have your email address. Like I said, we will get back to you on your email if you have questions, I think we’re going to have to close up this Q and A, I have so many more questions I’d like to answer. It sounds like a lot of people have the cramps, different side effects, how they deal with that, is that common? We’re going to close this up for now, we are hoping to have another one of these programs in about two months. Jim and Sheri, thank you so much for sharing your stories and your experience. 

For all of you at home, thank you for joining us, I love hearing stories of other people, that’s why I do this, I love to hear their experience, I hope that even if they’re just like I said before, one little piece of information that somebody can take from this, and ask their doctor about which we want you to do… Please do so we all have a hope for a cure. I wanted to talk about an algorithm for a cure Sheri I said that… I don’t know if there actually is. Everybody is different. There’s nothing definitive that I’ve heard Doctors say, well, if you’re 10 years out without treatments one, Doctor said Well I would call that a cure, so it just depends on who you’re talking to. I have high hopes for a cure and I hope it’s soon for all of us patients dealing with this, so thank you again. Thank you for joining us from home. We really appreciate you taking time out of your day. Have a great afternoon.  

Blood Cancer Awareness Month 2022

Five Things You Need to Know As a Newly Diagnosed Follicular Lymphoma Patient

What’s important for newly diagnosed follicular lymphoma patients to know? In the “Follicular Lymphoma Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You?” program, expert Dr. Tycel Jovelle Phillips from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center shares five things newly diagnosed follicular lymphoma patients should know about your care and treatment.

 1. Understand How Follicular Lymphoma Progresses

Follicular lymphoma progresses from stage I through stage IV, though you may be diagnosed after it has progressed past early stages. Stage I is when the cancer is localized to one area, stage II is on one side of the diaphragm, stage III is on both sides of the diaphragm, and stage IV could involve progression into an organ. The grade of follicular lymphoma indicates how large the cancer cells look under a microscope, starting with grade 1 and then grade 2, grade 3A, and grade 3B. 

 2. Learn About Factors in Treatment Decisions

Several factors can play into follicular lymphoma treatment decisions. A patient’s age, overall health, comorbidities, treatment side effects, and treatment goals must be considered in treatment options. Patients in early stages may have a more aggressive treatment approach, while later stage patients may have a treatment approach that prioritizes quality of life. But the age and physical condition must also be considered in the treatment approach. Make sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about factors under consideration for your treatment options. 

3. Know What to Expect for Treatment

Starting treatment for follicular lymphoma immediately is not always a given. Your doctor or care team may sometimes advise a period of watch and wait to monitor your progression instead. Reasons for waiting may include things like avoiding treatment side effects when there would be little benefit to fighting the cancer at its current stage.

4. Understand Your Role As a Patient

Follicular lymphoma patients now have more options to learn about treatment options. You can talk to patients and experts on social media or support groups to build foundational knowledge  about available treatments. Also, getting second opinions is no longer the taboo that it used to be. In fact, many follicular lymphoma specialists also encourage their patients to get second opinions, since there is not currently a standard of care. Patients should not feel like you’re doing something wrong by seeking a second opinion.

5. Discover Why It’s Important to Speak Up

Though doctors can observe some patient information in blood tests and other lab work, they  also must hear from their patients. Patients are the ones who know how you’re feeling, and this is why it’s vital for you to communicate with your doctor about any symptoms and side effects that you experience. Treatment can often be adjusted to minimize symptoms and side effects to provide patients with optimal quality of life while fighting your cancer.

By taking time to learn more about their care and treatment, follicular lymphoma patients can gain confidence to work toward the best care for your unique situation.

See More from The Pro-Active Follicular Lymphoma Patient Toolkit

Clinical Trials As a CLL Treatment Option: What You Should Know Guide

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Is the COVID Vaccine Safe and Effective for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Patients?

Is the COVID Vaccine Safe and Effective for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Shayna Sarosiek of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discusses the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients.

Dr. Shayna Sarosiek is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where she cares for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients at the Bing Center for Waldenstrom’s. Dr. Sarsosiek is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Sarosiek, here.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

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Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You?

Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You? 

Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment: Why Timing Is Essential

Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment: Why Timing Is Essential

Exciting Advances in Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment

Exciting Advances in Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment


Transcript:

Katherine:

This is a question on many people’s minds these days. Is the COVID vaccine safe and effective for people with Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia?  

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, in general, we highly recommend the COVID vaccines for our patients with Waldenstrom’s. We think it’s very helpful; it’s usually very safe for patients. But the one caveat is that it’s sometimes not as effective for patients with Waldenstrom’s as it is for patients who are otherwise healthy. There are a lot of data coming out that the antibodies or the part of the immune system is not responding as well in patients with Waldenstrom’s as in other healthy patients.  

And so, Waldenstrom’s patients often need to get more doses of vaccines to get the same effectiveness as healthy patients might. And so, it’s really important to follow up with your provider to really get a good idea of how many doses you can have or should have. And the other really important part of that is making sure that those are time appropriately with your therapy. Because we know that the effectiveness of the vaccine is really related any recent therapies that patients might have had.  

So, making sure that’s an open conversation with your physician about if it’s the right time to get your next vaccine. And if its’ not the time for the vaccine or if the vaccine is not going to be effective for you, there are potential other options such as Evusheld, which is an antibody against COVID that can offer similar efficacy as a vaccine might in terms of giving you antibodies if your own body can’t make them. 

Katherine:

And when you refer to COVID vaccine doses, are you including the boosters? That people should be getting? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

Yeah. So, initially patients should have a core series of vaccines essentially. So, in most people – in healthy people – that’s generally two doses are considered the core before you start boosters. In patients with Waldenstrom’s or patients who are immunosuppressed, that initial core series is three vaccines. And then the ones after that would be considered the booster vaccines. 

Exciting Advances in Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment

Exciting Advances in Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What new therapies are on the horizon for patients with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM)? Dr. Shayna Sarosiek from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reviews promising developments in WM treatment, including immunotherapy and BTK inhibitors.

 Dr. Shayna Sarosiek is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where she cares for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients at the Bing Center for Waldenstrom’s. Dr. Sarsosiek is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Sarosiek, here.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

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Emerging Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches

Emerging Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches 

What Are the Treatment Goals for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia?

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Current Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches

Current Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches 


Transcript:

Katherine:

What are you excited about when it comes to Waldenstrom’s research? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, there a couple of things that I find really exciting right now. One thing in particular is currently for treatment for Waldenstrom’s, we often use BTK inhibitors. So, the group of medications that includes zanubrutinib (Brukinsa), ibrutinib (Imbruvica), acalabrutinib (Calquence). And that class of medications has really revolutionized treatment for Waldenstrom’s. But sometimes patients become resistant to those medications. And there’s a new group in that same class of what’s called BTK inhibitors.  

And those are non-covalent BTK inhibitors. And those drugs actually work often for patients who progress on initial therapy with ibrutinib or zanubrutinib. So that really, I think is game changing. There are some early Non-Covalent BTK inhibitors that are in trials. And I really think it’s going to lead to use of those medications very commonly in the future for Waldenstrom’s. So, that I think is exciting to have a next oral therapy to go to after progression on the current therapies. I’m also excited about new combinations that are being tried in Waldenstrom’s.  

So, using combinations of different oral therapies together that would offer deep responses and also offer a time-limited therapy. Because right now many of our treatments are given indefinitely. And so, offering a limited therapy. So, I think that, and there are many other things I could go on for a long time about this. But there are many things that I think are really exciting and we’re going to be changing the field in the coming years. 

Katherine:

Dr. Sarosiek, what is immunotherapy? Could you define that and also, how does it work to treat Waldenstrom’s? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, immunotherapy includes many different types of medications. But these are all medications that either use the patient’s immune system or use something from the immune system, like an antibody to help fight off a cancer. And this plays a huge role currently and I think it will continue to in the future. So, probably the most common immunotherapy that patients are familiar with, with Waldenstrom’s now is rituximab (Rituxan). So, that’s a monoclonal antibody.  

And that’s used in many combinations in Waldenstrom’s and is a very important therapy currently. And that antibody is essentially just goes into where the cancer cells are located and attacks that type of cell.  

But the other immunotherapies that are up and coming – which I think are important for patients to know about – one is CAR-T cell therapy. So, a lot of patients ask me about that. and that’s essentially, a T cell is part of the immune system that every patient has. And what CAR T-cell therapies do is patients can collect from their bloodstream – the physicians can collect T cells and then they modify those T-cells in a way so that they’ll recognized the cancer and attack the cancer.  

And so then, those T cells are given back to the patient and then that T  cell can go and work with the patient’s immune system to destroy the cancer. And that’s been very successful in a lot of other cancers and is being used in Waldenstrom’s now. And I think we’re going to be learning a lot about that and it’s going to be an important part of the future with immunotherapy involved in Waldenstrom’s. Another therapy similar is something called BiTE therapies. So, Bispecific T-cell engagers.  

So, that’s essentially two antibodies together. One antibody kind of pulls in the cancer cell and one antibody pulls in the immune system. So, when that treatment is given to patients it kind of brings the immune system close to the cancer cells. So, your own immune system can help fight off the cancer. So, those are just kind of two of the newer immunotherapies that are up and coming that I think will play an important role in the future in this disease. 

Katherine:

Who is this treatment right for? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

Immunotherapies in general currently we’re using them – currently immunotherapies are being used in patients who have had a relapsed disease. So, they have already had current available therapies, like BTK inhibitors or rituximab. And there are clinical trials that can use CAR-T cell therapy. And there are up and coming trials with BITE therapy. So, right now it’s being used in their relapse setting. But as we learn more about it, it’s possible those we moved earlier on to patients who are earlier in their disease course. 

Katherine:

What kind of side effects should patients be aware of? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, the side effects can vary depending on what the therapy is. So, patients who are getting rituximab, the currently available immunotherapy, patients can have infusion reactions. So, as your body is kind of getting used to that monoclonal antibody coming in, you can have a reaction. And in that case, we have to stop the infusion, wait for the side effects to settle down, and then restart.  

Katherine:

What type of side effects would they be? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, side effects from rituximab infusions can really vary. In some patients it can be similar to an allergic reaction. So, let’s say itchy throat or a rash or hives. Sometimes it can be pain in the chest or the back or trouble breathing. So, they can really vary. But most of the time, those can – when the infusion is stopped, we can give patients medications like Benadryl or Tylenol to help with symptoms. And then we can restart the Rituximab at a lower rate. And that lower rate allows the patient’s body to kind of get used to the medication and continue on the treatment. So that’s generally the things we watch for with Rituximab. 

Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment: Why Timing Is Essential

Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment: Why Timing Is Essential from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare slow-moving disease, so immediate treatment isn’t always necessary. WM expert Dr. Shayna Sarosiek discusses the “watch and wait” period and what criteria may indicate a patient is ready for therapy.

Dr. Shayna Sarosiek is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where she cares for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients at the Bing Center for Waldenstrom’s. Dr. Sarsosiek is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Sarosiek, here.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

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Understanding Waldenström Macroglobulinemia and How It Progresses

Understanding Waldenström Macroglobulinemia and How It Progresses 


Transcript:

Katherine:

I understand that many people diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s may not be treated right away. Why is that? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

Yeah, so a lot of patients – actually, the majority of patients don’t need treatment right away for Waldenstrom’s. And even some patients, about 20 percent to 30 percent of patients a decade later still don’t need therapy. Because, as I mentioned, it’s really such a slow-moving disease that often patients will have no symptoms or very few symptoms for many years. And if that’s the case, we really don’t like to introduce treatments earlier than we need to.  

One, because you might introduce a therapy that adds toxicity or side effects that are making the patient feel worse than they currently feel. Two, the other reason we don’t want to treat too often if we don’t need to, is because it’s possible the Waldenstrom’s might become resistant to therapies and then when we truly needed something later, the disease might become resistant to things we used earlier.  

The other reason is, we don’t have any data that shows us that treating early improves survival. We know that patients with Waldenstrom’s have an excellent survival. And that’s only when treating when we need to. So, we don’t have any data that tells us we need to treat early. And so, really, the focus of Waldenstrom’s therapies is just to make sure that our patients maintain a good quality of life with their disease under good control. And we can do that in a lot of cases by not offering therapy early and just doing it when we start to see signs that there is something that needs to be addressed.  

Katherine:

Many of us have heard this term “watch and wait.” What does that mean exactly? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, watch and wait generally just refers to a plan to continue to monitor the patient. Often every three months or every four months in clinic, where we might just examine the patient to check for lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen. We ask about symptoms that might perk our ears up or make us think about progression of the disease. And we also check bloodwork.  

That can tell us what’s happening with the Waldenstrom’s. So, really, the exam, talking with the patient, getting labs every few months is a good way for us to keep track of what’s happening with the disease. So, we’re watching closely, but we’re waiting and holding off on therapy until it’s needed. 

Katherine:

Yeah. How do you know when it’s time to begin treatment? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

Great question. So, we have criteria that were designed. That physicians internationally follow to tell us when patients need treatment. Of course, those are just guidelines, so it’s often based on the guidelines and also each individual patient. But, for example, one of the main reasons why patients might require therapy is if a patient has anemia.  

So, we measure that with the hemoglobin. If the hemoglobin’s less than 10, and the patient has symptoms of anemia, then in that case we might need to offer therapy. Another common reason for therapy being initiated might be hyperviscosities. So, if the blood is getting thick, as Waldenstrom’s progresses and the IgM level is high, then in that case blood flow can’t happen appropriately. And so, in that case, we might need treatment.

Another side effect that patients with Waldenstrom’s can have is neuropathy. And so, that’s numbness, tingling, burning, loss of sensation. Usually starting in the toes and working its way up the feet and legs. If that’s progressing rapidly, if it’s causing the patient to not be able to do their usual activities, that’s another reason for treatment. So, we have these clear guidelines that tell us the things that we should be watching out for and then, it helps us to know when it’s an appropriate time to start treatment for patients. 

Why Should You See a Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Specialist?

Why Should You See a Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Specialist? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

There are only 1,500 patients diagnosed with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) each year in the United States. WM expert Dr. Shayna Sarosiek explains why patients should consider a consult with a WM specialist and advice for being proactive in their care.

Dr. Shayna Sarosiek is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where she cares for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients at the Bing Center for Waldenstrom’s. Dr. Sarsosiek is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Sarosiek, here.

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Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment: Why Timing Is Essential

What Is the Patient’s Role in WM Treatment Decisions?

What Is the Patient’s Role in WM Treatment Decisions? 


Transcript:

Katherine:

Why do you think patients should consider seeing a Waldenstrom’s specialist? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, Waldenstrom’s is a rare disease. There are only about 1,500 patients per year in the United States diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s. And because of that, many providers – whether it’s an internal medicine provider, a surgeon, oncologist – most people don’t have a lot of experience, just because it’s such a low number of patients with the disease.  

And so, it’s not possible I think to really ever know everything there is to know about Waldenstrom’s. But that’s especially true when you’re working in the community, and you don’t get an opportunity to see a lot. So, if you have the chance to see a specialist, I think it’s really important. Because as a specialist, we really have the opportunity to get to know all of the data about the disease.  

We get to know the nuances of the data. We get to know a lot of different presentations of the disease and have a lot of experience with the unique things that can happen with Waldenstrom’s. So, we’re lucky in that way to really be able to see patients and continuously just be learning more and more so that we can be more helpful to patients. 

Katherine:

Right. What is your advice to patients who may feel like they’re hurting feelings by seeking a specialist or seeking a second opinion? Any advice for self-advocacy? 

Dr. Sarosiek:

So, I think in general I would hope that most physicians and all physicians would really be open to having their patients get a second opinion. Even as a specialist, we’re really open to that because we can never know everything and so it’s important to get more brains involved at all times, I think is always helpful. So, although it may feel that way sometimes, I think the vast majority of physicians I come in contact with are really more than willing to get help from other people who might have more experience with such a rare disease.  

And I think that patients should never be discouraged if they have a physician who’s not quite open to it [00:06:05], because they really – I think the patients are always their best advocate. They know their body the best, they know their symptoms, they know if something’s not right. And so, really pushing to get the right answers for themselves. I think being an advocate for yourself there’s no one who can do that better. So, patients should never be – should never hold back from getting a second opinion. 

Expert Advice for Newly Diagnosed Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Patients

Expert Advice for Newly Diagnosed Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Patients from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should you know if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM)? Dr. Shayna Sarosiek of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute shares key advice.

Dr. Shayna Sarosiek is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where she cares for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients at the Bing Center for Waldenstrom’s. Dr. Sarsosiek is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Sarosiek, here.

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Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM) Treatment: Why Timing Is Essential

Understanding Waldenström Macroglobulinemia and How It Progresses

Understanding Waldenström Macroglobulinemia and How It Progresses 


Transcript:

Katherine:  

Dr. Sarosiek, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself? 

Dr. Sarosiek: 

Sure. My name is Shayna Sarosiek, and I’m a hematologist and oncologist. And I work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where I see patients in the Bing Center for Waldenstrom’s. And really just focus on Waldenstrom’s and other IgM-related disorders.  

Katherine:  

Great. Thank you for joining us today. What three key pieces of advice would you have for a patient who’s just been diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s?  

Dr. Sarosiek: 

So, certainly being diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s can be incredibly overwhelming. So, a couple of things I try to remind patients of is one, in general, Waldenstrom’s is a pretty slow-moving disorder. And so, there’s a lot of time in most cases for patients to really get additional information, seek second opinions, learn really about the treatment options and make a really well-informed decision. And even in the cases where the patient might need treatment more urgently. We have some things that can kind of temporize or stabilize patients while we have time to make those informed decisions.  

So, one, I would say there’s always time to make a well-informed decision about the next steps. So, although it can be overwhelming, that’s important to keep in the back of their minds. And the other thing for patients I would say is just to remember this is a constantly evolving field. And a conversation you have with your physician today, six months from now or a year from now is going to be totally different as things improve, more treatments are available. 

And that’s a really positive thing for patients to remember, is that things are honestly just really every day improving in the field. And the third thing I would say is that there are really incredible resources available for patients. Videos like this, educational material, patient support groups. And there are really just a lot of opportunities that patients should and could take advantage of in order to really improve their care, be educated, and really know what treatments are available to make the best decisions.  

Emerging Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches

Emerging Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) therapies are showing promise? Dr. Jorge Castillo of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discusses emerging research and advances in WM treatment.

Dr. Jorge Castillo is Clinical Director at the Bing Center for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Castillo, here.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

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What Are the Treatment Goals for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia?

What Are the Treatment Goals for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia?

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Factors That Affect Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions

Factors That Affect Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions


Transcript:

Katherine:                  

Dr. Castillo, are there emerging approaches for treating Waldenstrom’s?

Dr. Castillo:               

Always. And that’s the beauty – that’s the second part of when we talked about clinical trials, right, we talked about clinical trials? Science continues, and we work very closely with an organization called the International Waldenstrom’s Foundation, and they support research all over the world for Waldenstrom’s.

So, their message is since the sun comes up until the sun comes down, there is someone, somewhere in the world working on Waldenstrom’s, and that’s true.

So, there’s a lot of science in the background, and that science helps us understand how the Waldenstrom’s cells behave, and therefore, we can then start targeting some things. That’s how BTK inhibitors came out. That’s how proteasome inhibitors came out. That’s how BCL-2 inhibitors came out. All these are the result of science, applied into the treatments. So, at my institution and many other institutions in the country and outside of the country, there are newer treatments being tried all the time.

We have now – we are looking into combining BTK inhibitors with other agents. Germany is doing a number of different studies. Canada is doing a number of different studies. We are doing some studies in the United States as well, combining chemotherapy and PIs with the BTK inhibitors. We’re doing a study in my institution combining BTK inhibitors with BCL-2 inhibitors. So, and the idea is to try to create a more powerful agent or regimen and hopefully maybe not give patients indefinite treatments, more like fixed duration treatments.

So, I think that’s where it’s coming. It’s coming maybe double, triple combinations, fixed duration treatments. That’s what is coming in terms of that aspect of the research. And then, we do have newer compounds coming out.

We do have now some concepts in what we call immunotherapy, right? We think about antibodies.

We think about bispecific T-cell engagers. CAR-T cells, so all that is actually up and coming in Waldenstrom’s. There are actual clinical trials being done today evaluating all those different treatments for patients with Waldenstrom’s.

So, I think the future is really bright. I’m really optimistic, to be honest with you about the treatment of patients with Waldenstrom’s. Obviously, what we need, what we want, is cure of the disease. And again, we can think about cure in two different ways. We can think about the classic definition of cure in which we treat patients, the disease goes away, you stop treatments, and the disease never comes back, right? That’s one way of looking at cure.

The other way of looking at cure is you treat the disease, the disease is in a remission, you continue treating the patient, and then the patient basically dies of other reasons, right? That is a functional cure. So, I think we’re closer to the latter, much more than the former, but the efforts to continue developing new treatments, it’s not stopping anytime soon.

Katherine:                  

No, because we’re always constantly moving forward, having to find new treatments, definitely.

Why Patients Should Speak Up About WM Symptoms and Side Effects

Why Patients Should Speak Up About WM Symptoms and Side Effects from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Is Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) causing fatigue? Dr. Jorge Castillo shares why WM patients should share any symptoms and side effects they experience with their healthcare team.

Dr. Jorge Castillo is Clinical Director at the Bing Center for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Castillo, here.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

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Emerging Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches

Emerging Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches

What Is the Patient’s Role in WM Treatment Decisions?

What Is the Patient’s Role in WM Treatment Decisions?

Factors That Affect Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions

Factors That Affect Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions


Transcript:

Katherine:                  

Fatigue seems to be very common among Waldenstrom’s patients. Here’s a question that we received before the program. Kasey asks, “Why do I feel so tired all the time? Is there anything that can be done about it?

Dr. Castillo:               

That’s a great question, and as I said before and basically kind of summarizing what I put together, I mean, there are many patients why a symptom with Waldenstrom’s could be fatigued. One of them is they could be anemic. The other one, they could have some hyperviscosity symptoms causing some fatigue, maybe some inflammation in the body because of the Waldenstrom’s, but maybe there are other reasons why patients can be fatigued.

And if you go out there in the streets and you start asking people, “Are you tired?” 80 percent of Americans are going to be tired. I’m not trying to minimize the symptoms of the patients. What I’m trying to say is we need to be very careful at understanding what the relation of the fatigue is with the disease. We need to be convinced that there is a relation there.

If that happened in my clinic – for example, a patient comes to see me, and they are fatigued; their hemoglobin is 14, which is normal; their IgM is about 1,000, which is not supposed to cause hyperviscosity. So, I do not know really in that context if the Waldenstrom’s is driving the fatigue or not.

Katherine:                  

Or if it’s something else.

Dr. Castillo:               

Exactly. So, we need to make sure that the patient doesn’t have any iron deficiency, that the patient doesn’t have any thyroid problems, that the testosterone problems are okay, that there’s no sleep disturbances, that there’s no depression. So, there’s so many different other things that we need to make sure are not there before we mount into that. Because if someone is fatigued with a hemoglobin of 8, which is very low, with my treatments, if I make that 8 14, I know the fatigue is going to get better. But if the patient is fatigued with a hemoglobin of 14, which I am not going to improve with my treatments, then how confident do I feel that I’m going to improve the patient’s quality of life with a potentially dangerous treatment?

So, we talked about already secondary leukemias, neuropathy, other problems that the patient can have with the treatments or because of the treatments.

So, we need to balance that out and understand that the potential benefit has to be higher than the potential risk, and that’s why the personalization comes into play. So, fatigue is a big issue, and we try to take a very systematic approach about that, you know, ruling out other conditions, making sure that we understand its relation with the disease before recommending treatment just for fatigue.

Katherine:                  

Yeah. This is one side effect that is so important for patients to share with their healthcare team, right?

Dr. Castillo:               

Oh, absolutely.

Katherine:                  

So that their healthcare team can know how to treat them.

Dr. Castillo:               

That’s right. And again, there are so many interventions that are not medications that could be done in these type of situations, right? Meditation, mindfulness. There are so many other approaches to try to help in these type of situations, changing a little bit sometimes the perspective, trying to be a little bit more on the positive thinking, right?

So, there are so many different ways outside of pharmacological approaches that we can use to try to improve our patients’ quality of life.

Katherine:                  

Yeah. Knowing that one has an incurable disease can be very stressful, right? Knowing that you have to live with this.

Dr. Castillo:               

That’s absolutely correct, and again, what I’ve seen happening in some of my patients is every little thing that happens to them, they do not know if it’s because of the disease or not.

Katherine:                  

Oh, yeah.

Dr. Castillo:               

“So, I have a twitch there. Oh, it’s due to Waldenstrom’s. Do I need to be treated because of that twitch?” And that, I understand it. Well, I try to understand it. I’m not in that same situation, so I cannot understand it completely. But I try to understand how if you don’t trust your body anymore, right? I mean, you have a disease, and you don’t trust your body anymore, then how you trust all these little symptoms here and there?

So, in my conversations with my patients, I discuss these things openly and that you’re going to have a lot of different symptoms here and there. Most of them probably are not going to be related to the disease, but if some of them are concerning enough to you in terms of your activities, in terms of eating, drinking, sleeping, social life, sexual life, you know, working life, then let me know, and then we will be happy to investigate those because anything can happen to anybody.

So, you can have other problems. Waldenstrom’s doesn’t protect you from anything, so, and it’s always important to discuss this with patients and pay attention to the patients, not dismiss their symptoms, think about them with them, talk about them with the patients to try to understand how these are affecting them.