I apologize for the delay in getting today’s article online. I’m flying back to Tampa from LA, and the much touted and over-hyped on-board Wi-Fi on my Delta flight wouldn’t connect with my laptop browser. Translation: No internet connection for almost six hours.
I was out in Los Angeles doing some freelance media work, While I was there, I had a change to pay an unscheduled visit the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research on Sunset Boulevard, just outside Beverly Hills.
The Institute is directed by Dr. James Berenson, a well known myeloma expert and researcher.
Dr. Berenson is one of the few, prominent myeloma docs I haven’t met since my diagnosis in 2007 launched my new career as a cancer writer.
What makes Dr. Berenson unique is his sometimes controversial approach to treating multiple myeloma. Dr. Berenson is a proponent of the “less is more” treatment philosophy,” including using stem cell transplants (SCT) only as a last resort. Much more about this later.
Dr. Berenson was kind enough to give me a quick tour of their facilities while he answered a few of my questions.
At first glance, the Institute’s suite of third floor offices doesn’t seem remarkable–that is until you realize it is an independent, fully contained operation–complete with exam rooms, a state of the art lab and patient infusion center.
As we walked around the building, Dr. Berenson explained how all of the patient labs and blood work were done in-house, providing what he felt were more reliable results in a much shorter time.
I could see the advantages of that. No more week long waits for M-spike results! Plus, Dr. Berenson’s lab provides him with a much greater array of detailed tests and testing variations, allowing him to get a much clearer picture of a patient’s condition in real time. More about that later too.
I soon learned Dr. Berenson was an avid skier. So much so, each of the rooms in the Institute are named after well known western ski areas and famous ski trails. Having skied out west a lot (when I was younger and prior to my diagnosis, of course!) I recognized many of the names. Most were from Utah–Snow Basin and Alta–to name two.
We quickly left the lab for the research center. There I met the Institute’s Principal Scientist and lead researcher, Zhi-Wei Li, PhD.
Dr. Li (who everyone calls Willy) is a tall, thin man with a great smile. I think Dr. Berenson keeps him “locked up” in the lab too much, because he He seemed genuinely happy to talk with me–maybe because Dr. Berenson keeps him “locked-up” and working by himself in the lab so much.
We visited for about ten minutes or so as Willy tried to explain a new research project he and Dr. Berenson were trying to fund. Between Willy’s broken English and my weak background in bio-chemistry, all I heard clearly was “cure.”
That’s right! Dr. Berenson and Dr. Li are working on a new theory they hope will cure multiple myeloma sometime in the not so distant future.
It has something to do with blocking the way proteins attach themselves to the outside of cancer cell walls. This would then cause the cancer cells to die. I believe that is called apoptosis.
I will see if I can’t get you more information about this ambitious project and pass the information along to you as it becomes available.
It’s getting late, so I will share more about my visit–along with Dr. Berenson’s position on SCT and other myeloma therapies tomorrow.
Until then, feel good and keep smiling! I’m going to unpack and try to get some sleep- Pat