Today was my first day of two days that I’m spending at the UCLA Brain Tumor Conference. I was told about this conference when I met with my neuro-oncologist, Dr. Tim Cloughesy, for the first time a couple weeks ago. He gave me all the information about the conference, which focuses on explaining subjects such as imaging, treatments, clinical trials, tumor types, and end of life issues, among others, to patients and care givers specifically.
So today, Day 1, included 8 “General Sessions” with over views of different areas, some of which will be offered in greater depth tomorrow.
It has been a looooooooooong time since I’ve been in a lecture setting, looking at power point presentations and taking notes. And while I did completely love returning to that classroom schema, it was a bit exhausting and difficult to keep my concentration level high through out all 8.
But there is a general idea that I got from several of the sessions that seems to be a prevalent idea, at least at UCLA……
…… the “one size fits all” way of treating cancer no longer applies.
Instead, treating cancer patients as individuals with personalized treatment instead of generic, generalized statistics is what will increase survival rates and prolog each patient’s life.
This idea was made very clear during the session “Understanding Neuropathology” by Dr. Paul Mischel. After giving basic information about how pathology is used, Dr. Mischel talked passionately about how the job of the pathologist is growing in importance because it is through pathology that we learn the specifics of each person’s unique tumor and how to treat the individual’s genes and bio chemistry.
Moving past the “one size fits all” was definitely echoed by Dr. Dr. Albert Lai in his session “Chemotherapeutic/Biological Agents in Treatment of Gliomas” as well as Dr. Leia Nghiemphu in her session “Experimental Therapies: Clinical Trials & Biological Agents” and of course Dr. Tim Cloughesy in his welcome and overview.
I find this idea of personalization very refreshing. And actually, while I don’t know what other types of oncology are championing personalization, I find it quite poetic that personalization is coming up in work with brain cancer. Just looking at a brain from the outside, for me, they all look pretty similar, but the brain is actually the center of us – our thoughts, feelings, personality, strength, weakness, talents, control and lack there of – and it is what makes us unique. So to work with doctors who are sensitive to that uniqueness, and want to understand and adapt to that uniqueness, it feels like a personalization pas de deux between the doctor and patient.
Dr. Linda Liau spoke in her session “Neuro-Surgery Techinques & Image-Guided Surgery” about how they don’t use robots or machines to do the surgeries due to possible imprecision, and how she actually uses the FEEL of the density of the glioma tumor vs the density of normal brain to help her in her surgeries. For some reason that really stuck out to me – using that additional feeling sense and not relying on technology – preferring to have the intimate, personal, one on one surgical relationship with the patient because it leads to better results.
In a world full of automation, junk email and robot phone services, its so nice to know that there are some new developments that are reliant on personalization and connection.
For those curious, today’s sessions were:
Welcome Note & Overview of Brain Tumors – Dr. Tim Cloughesy
Neuro-Surgery Techniques & Image-Guided Surgery – Dr. Linda Liau
Radiation Treatments and Stereotactic Radiotherapy – Dr. Antonio DeSalles
Chemotherapeutic/Biological Agents in Treatment of Gliomas – Dr. Albert Lai
Understanding Neuropathology – Dr. Paul Mischel
Experimental Therapies: Clinical Trials & Biological Agents – Dr. Leia Nghiemphu
Brain Tumor Translational Resource – Tumor Banking – Dr. William Yong
Neuro-Imaging and Brain Tumors – Dr. Whitney Pope
Lots of information…. I’m happy to give more specifics if there is any interest in it. Just let me know.
And I’ll update Day 2!