As I shared with you yesterday, I had an unexpected chance to speak with Dr. James Berenson at the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research in Los Angeles earlier this week. Allow me to share more about my visit:
After leaving Dr. Li (Willy), the Institute’s Principal Scientist and returning to Dr. Berenson’s office, I had a chance to ask the good doctor a few questions on behalf of several patients who have e-mailed me recently about if and when to undergo stem cell transplants (SCT).
Dr. Berenson has raised more than a few eyebrows the past few years over his reluctance to use SCT’s. His philosophy is simple: Wait!
Rather than follow conventional wisdom which views SCT for newly diagnosed patients as the standard of care, Dr. Berenson only recommends using SCT as a last resort.
Let me pause here and share with you that I was unprepared for these late evening interviews. I didn’t have a tape recorder. I didn’t even have a writer’s note pad. This was an unscheduled, last minute opportunity.
Due to my worsening peripheral neuropathy, I sometimes have difficulty writing–especially after a long day when my fingers are numb and stiff. This makes if awkward for me to take notes and quotes on the fly.
So with only a few, sketchy notes scribbled on the back of my airline itinerary, I’m not able to pass along many direct quotes.
But the great thing about visiting with someone like Dr. Berenson–most everything is black or white. Dr. Berenson would make a lousy politician! I could tell right from the start you would always know just here he stands and how he feels about an issue.
It didn’t take any prompting for me to get him to open-up and tell me how he feels about stem cell transplants–or what he considers to be the use of too many expensive, unnecessary anti-myeloma drugs.
Dr. Berenson was critical of the rush to use hard to tolerate and expensive novel therapy agents as maintenance therapy before researchers can prove the use of these drugs measurably extends a patient’s life.
He also feels SCTs are over used and may prove to be unnecessary for many patients.
Why? Tune in tomorrow!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat