Targeted treatment for a specific type of stomach cancer is “probably the most significant advancement in recent years,” says Dr. Edith Mitchell, a clinical professor of medicine and medical oncology at Thomas Jefferson University and director of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.
Stomach cancers with increased levels of a protein called HER2 can now be identified by pathology and treated with a monoclonal antibody called trastuzumab, or Herceptin, she says. The American Cancer Society explains how targeted treatments work.
Mitchell is a member of the blue-ribbon panel for the Cancer Moonshot. Launched in January by the Obama administration and supported by the National Cancer Institute, the goal of Moonshot is to accelerate cancer research.
“It’s really very important that research continues and actually should increase in the whole spectrum of the treatment of the patient with gastric cancer,” Mitchell says. “That involves identification of individuals at high risk, preventive strategies, early detection and diagnosis, treatment and therapeutic interventions, and the care of the patient post-treatment as well as survivorship research.”
Zelman, who is now on immunotherapy, continues to lead Debbie’s Dream Foundation’s efforts to improve outcomes for others with stomach cancer. “I am eight years out, and I’m a patient every day,” she says. “So I’m having a recurrence now. And how am I doing? I tell people, ‘I’m here. So I’m happy that I’m here.’ But every day is a struggle.”
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