Sometimes All You Need is a Little Attitude (Adjustment)

I had planned to write a themes and data follow up post for my ASCO trip but I wrote the more personal one below just after the meeting and can’t seem to get past the draft in my folder.

A Shift As day seven of my current work travels dawned, I caught myself entertaining those thoughts about the challenges of travel and a little bit of woe is me attitude. I was in Chicago for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting and then came to Houston a visit because of our ongoing Phase I trial of our cancer drug. When I’m in town, I stay near the medical centers, where many patients and their families stay when they come to town for diagnosis and treatment. As I entered the breakfast room in the hotel, I was quickly reminded of the true challenges that people face, specifically as they struggle to regain their health. Unlike too many of these folks, my travel will end and my life will resume its normal pace. On my way in that day, I tried to take the time to appreciate the little things along the way. (Pictures below)

An Avalanche If you have any interest in cancer, you likely saw news coming out of the ASCO meeting. The meeting is massive and is “the” place to announce clinical results for new drugs or new uses for existing drugs. While there are a variety of sessions designed for patients and advocates, the majority of the sessions are filled with tables, graphs and statistical analyses of clinical trial results. When you get caught up debating about hazard ratios and p values, it is very easy to be disconnected from the reality that each table or graph is made up of individuals. I imagine that since the vast majority of attendees are oncologists, they return to their centers and make that connection immediately. For someone in drug development, such as myself, the link may be harder to see, which brings me back to the second leg of my journey.

When you develop a new drug, the initial exploration of the drug in people is called a Phase I clinical trial. For cancer drugs, the people who participate in these trials are refractory cancer patients, meaning that they have tried all approved drug for their cancer and the disease has still progressed. Part of my job is to review patients’ charts as part of the Phase I trial of our drug. I won’t go into all the background because it is a post in itself, but the stories in the charts help explain the pieces of data we collect to tell us what is happening with the patients and thus the drug.

So after spending the better part of a week thinking about cancer from a data driven, dispassionate perspective, I ran head long into cancer on a much more personal, intimate level. Medical charts of advanced cancer patients tell the stories of people with regular lives that have been changed forever with their diagnosis and subsequent treatments. I am grateful for the people who participate in our trial and everything they teach us, about our drug and ourselves.

Gratitude is an attitude. Cultivate it.

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