Posts Tagged ‘chemotherapy’

Latest in Breast Cancer Research

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 10%-20% of diagnosed breast cancers are determined to be triple negative breast cancer. It tends to primarily affect younger, premenopausal women and is more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. Studies show that African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer than white women. Triple negative breast cancers don’t have the three types of receptors that most commonly fuel breast cancer growth — estrogen, progesterone and the HER2 gene — so they don’t respond to hormonal therapies and treatments that target those receptors. Chemotherapy is typically used for treatment, but there is an urgent need to find more precise therapies.

LaTonia Taliaferro-Smith, PhD, is one of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s scientists who have taken up the challenge to develop more targeted therapies. In her lab research, Taliaferro-Smith searches for alternative targets in the triple negative breast cancer cell. She works closely with Winship physician-researchers toward the goal of developing drugs that will benefit patients with this disease.

“I’m very hopeful about the research we’re doing here and what Winship is offering to triple negative breast cancer patients,” says Taliaferro-Smith. “Oftentimes when patients hear a triple negative diagnosis, they think there are no options and ultimately their endpoint is death. But we’re very encouraged here at Winship because we do have active research that is trying to find alternative therapies for these particular patients, so we can let them know that you will have treatment options available hopefully in the near future.”

Check out the video below as Dr. Taliaferro- Smith discusses the continuous work research teams at Winship are doing to develop more precise treatment therapies for triple negative breast cancer:

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Learn more about breast cancer care at Winship at Emory. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and our breast care teams want you to know that early detection is key to survival. Have questions about the role of screening in early breast cancer detection? Join us for a live web chat with a breast imaging expert on October 21, 204.

The Effects of Chemo and Radiation on Survivors Web Chat

I am a survivor. I beat Ewing’s sarcoma, a childhood cancer, which I was diagnosed with at 8 years old. I fought the cancer with an intense treatment plan that included 6 weeks of radiation therapy followed by 7 cycles of multi – agent chemotherapy. As a result of the aggressive treatment plan, I developed heart failure and ultimately had to receive a heart transplant. I beat the odds and am here to tell my story of survivorship!

Join me on Tuesday, February 19 from 12-1pm for a live, interactive chat about weathering the storms of cancer. Despite the side effects that have impacted my life greatly, long after the completion of my therapy, I am bubbling with hope and smiling about thoughts of my future.

About Stephanie Zimmerman

Stephanie is a patient and family advisor for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is also a cancer and heart failure survivor and late effects cancer educator. She co –founded My Heart, yourHands, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to equipping survivors with late effects after cancer treatment.


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Common Cancer Drugs in Short Supply

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD, Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute

Hundreds of common intravenous medications are in short supply, according to recent reports. 21 of these commonly used generic drugs in the reported shortage are used to treat cancer, which is obviously a concern for oncologists, cancer patients, and their families.  Although the 21 generic drugs represent only a fraction of the chemotherapy drugs available, the shortage is still very much a concern at Winship Cancer Institute and other cancer treatment centers across the country. Some of the drugs, such as cytarabine, doxorubicin and etoposide, are very commonly used in a number of cancers we treat frequently at Emory. The medication shortage has caused delays in patients across the country starting their cancer treatment and has required that treatment teams substitute medications used in treatment. This is less than ideal.

The reasons behind this medication shortage are complex. In November, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) held a meeting to discuss the drug shortages, and the American Society for Clinical Oncology was one of the sponsors. One of the cancer treatment medication shortage reasons cited is that some manufacturers have difficulty complying with Good Manufacturing Practices, principles relating to the safe manufacture of drugs and medical devices that is overseen by the FDA . This results in production stoppages or recalls. The group also noted that the FDA needs more authority to require generic drug makers to notify the agency six months in advance if it intends to stop making a drug.

Another reason for the shortage in cancer drug availability has to do with supply chain management. The efficient, cost-saving “just-in-time” method of delivering and acquiring goods in contemporary business – which means that a provider intentionally keeps inventory low to avoid costly warehousing and storage of products – may actually be contributing to the shortage. With all these factors (and more) at work, it’s surprising that these drug shortages don’t happen more often.

Winship has been fortunate to have very aggressive leadership from our pharmacy and treatment teams to help manage the shortage of generic cancer treatment medications. So far, through careful management and monitoring of patient needs, very few patients have been affected by treatment changes or delays.  Each week, a team meets to assess each patient’s treatment plan, drug inventory to meet those plans, and how to make sure Winship has the drugs it needs, when it needs them. “One of the biggest things we’re doing is to really plan treatment in the context of the drug shortages,” said Donald Harvey, PharmD, director of the Phase 1 clinical trials unit at Winship. “And we’re doing everything possible to obtain inventory, including borrowing from other hospitals if we need to.”

Dr. Harvey, who also is president of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, also recently met with representatives from Sen. (R-GA) Johnny Isakson’s staff to make sure that Sen. Isakson knows of the severity of the shortage. In years past, “It would be unheard of to have 21 anti-cancer drugs on short supply,” Dr. Harvey said as he discussed the shortage. Cancer drugs represent about 11 percent of the drugs in short supply, he told the Senator’s staff on April 27, asking for the Senator’s support for a bill introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in February to help remedy the situation.

Our pharmacists and cancer treatment teams here at the Winship Cancer Institute are on top of this important issue, and I’ll keep you posted on updates that emerge. For more information on current drug shortages in general, visit: For more on the recent announcement around shortages in cancer drugs, check out this release from Reuters.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Associate Vice President, Cancer, Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Chair of Radiation Oncology