Patrick Swayze Opens Up About Pancreatic Cancer
Actor Says He's 'Going Through Hell,' Took Experimental Medication
WebMD News Archive
What else is in the pipeline for treatment? continued...
"Stage IV therapy predominantly is chemotherapy-based, at the present time,"
"Cancer cells are very smart," Singh says. "The example that I use in a lot
of talks is that they're going on a freeway. ... if you're going by one main
freeway and the freeway is blocked, you can take an alternative freeway to get
there. And if the alternative freeway is blocked, then you can take multiple
surface routes to get there."
It's the same thing with cancer cells, Singh says. "You think you can block
one gene and hope that these cells are going to not grow any further? Well,
they're smart enough to find an alternative route to get to the other end."
Singh predicts that in the next decade, cancer treatment will be a matter of
using several therapies -- surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and gene therapy
or immunotherapy, if it's available.
"We don't have a magic
bullet," Singh says.
Swayze has been working hard throughout all of this. How typical is his case?
"I don't know the extent of how much [cancer] was there in the liver" when
Swayze was diagnosed," Singh says. "If he had no response to the chemotherapy,
clearly he would have progressed. If Patrick has a good response to this, then
he's in the fortunate group."
The odds aren't good, but Singh knows of patients who have lived longer than
predicted. Singh says that several years ago he met a man who was a seven-year
survivor of pancreatic cancer that had already spread when it was diagnosed.
The man asked Singh to tell his story when he lectured on pancreatic
"I don't know whether he's still alive -- that was three years ago -- but
it's a good success story," Singh says. "But in reality, most of these people
are not around that long."
Swayze talks about the fragility of hope in the interview. How have you seen patients maintain hope in the face of pancreatic cancer?
"To give treatment to a patient who has pancreatic cancer, you have to give
them hope before you start," Singh says. Without a little bit of hope or
something to look forward to, "it's crushing not only them, you're crushing the
entire family. ... I think it is very, very important to give a positive
message, even though we know this is a fatal disease."
Swayze says he's smoked for decades and has cut down but not quit because it won't change his prognosis. Is he right about that?
"Nobody is going to endorse that he should continue to smoke, because of all
the health hazards associated with it," Singh says. "But I think
realistically, if he cuts down smoking, is his survival going to improve? Nobody knows
the answer to that, but I certainly wouldn't encourage it."
Singh points out that there is a "definite relationship" between tobacco use
and pancreatic cancer risk. "The overall risk is approximately five times
higher than the normal population if you use tobacco," he says.