July 10, 2012
MIXED RESULTS FROM INDIVIDUALIZED CANCER TREATMENTS.
In the end, Mrs. McDaniel’s journey to the edge of genetics research turned out to be a decidedly mixed experience. It was hard — much harder than anyone in her family had imagined — to get the sequencing and analysis done. It was breathtaking to see the results, which indicated that her cancer was driven by a strange gene aberration that could be attacked with a new drug. But it was heartbreaking to see how quickly her cancer recovered from the assault, roaring back in a matter of weeks.
Mrs. McDaniel’s story offers a sobering look at the challenges for this kind of quest for a treatment, even for someone like her, who had both the means and the connections to get the intricate geography of her cancer charted. Her husband, Roger McDaniel, was a former chief executive of two companies involved in semiconductor manufacturing, and the family could afford the approximately $49,000 that the search would cost. They had expected to pay much more, but to their astonishment, Mrs. McDaniel’s insurance company covered almost all the drug costs. And the scientists who did the data analysis did not charge.
From the start, the family knew the odds were against Mrs. McDaniel, but she thought she had little to lose.
“You cannot feel bad if this doesn’t work or I die,” she told her son Timothy, a molecular biologist. “I would have died anyway.”
Longterm, I think this kind of approach has great promise. And maybe short-term, for some people.