Dr. Berenson and I talked about a number of things while we toured his facility. His disdain for using stem cell transplants (SCT) as a standard of care in newly diagnosed patients. The growing trend of using maintenance therapy following these transplants, even though there is no clear cut evidence maintenance therapy extends median life expectancy. Dr. Berenson also spoke disapprovingly of the high cost and waste involved with the overuse of these therapies. And we discussed his hopes for finding a multiple myeloma cure.
I have shared details about these conversations in my previous three articles about my visit. We completed the tour in Dr. Berenson’s office—an unremarkable space if it wasn’t for the classic, panoramic sunset view of the mountain framed LA skyline in the distance. There were stacks of files and papers everywhere. I could tell Dr. Berenson was distracted by the work which surrounded him. Yet he was kind enough to spend a few minutes advising me on my personal battle with multiple myeloma—and how to confront the slow, creeping return of my cancer.
Encouragingly, Dr. Berenson cited a long running study of 300 patients which shows a median life expectancy of eleven years. Eleven years! Now that’s progress! It was less than four years when I was first diagnosed.
Since Revlimid was losing effectiveness for me, he advised I try Velcade. “You could end up being on Velcade successfully for ten years.” he added.
Dr. Berenson’s last words to me as I prepared to return to my hotel under the now darkened sky: “Don’t get that transplant!”
Will I take his advice? I will discuss that with my new, Tampa based health care team while we try ramping-up my current 10 mg—14 days on 14 days off—Revlimid treatment regimen, possibly adding dex as well. It worked the first time—I was in complete response for almost three years.
I would like to thank Dr. Berenson for being flexible and taking the time to meet with me late Monday afternoon. All I know was he was still working after I left. He had just grabbed another stack of paperwork, pen in hand.
There has been a lot of important, breaking multiple myeloma related news this week. I will get that out to you later today and over the weekend.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat