Cassandra Jardine writes for the UK newspaper the Telegraph and in her latest article she discusses her experiences as a lung cancer patient:

Cassandra Jardine

Cassandra Jardine

‘I don’t know which of us was more excited, my consultant or I, to learn that I have a rare, misbehaving gene. For the consultant, Rohit Lal at Guy’s Hospital, London, it was his ticket to observe one of the most exciting developments in oncology. “We’ve been searching for a patient like you for eight months,” he told me.’

Jardine was thrilled at the prospect of an explanation of her cancer and a potential way of controlling it. She had been diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the lung, a cancer which usually affects smokers in their seventies, not 55-year-olds like Jardine who had given up smoking three cigarettes a day many years ago.

20% of people with this type of cancer never smoked much, if at all, and some faulty genes have been discovered in connection. The EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) gene has been identified in some cases but Jardine does not have this particular one. Yet at the beginning of 2011 Dr. Lal suggested the writer be tested for another gene, ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase). If she did have this gene she would be a candidate for a trial of an that could block the gene.

In cancer the gene defect is usually acquired rather than inherited, apart from some cases of breast cancer. Jardine is thought to have developed the mutation due to a virus.

She is currently taking part in the randomized trial that is testing the targeted ALK inhibitor Crizotinib.  Unfortunately she is one of the patients selected to have chemotherapy, but she is optimistic about the chemo soon being shown to be ineffective, in which case she is ‘promised Crizotinib’.

Read the full story by Cassandra Jardine.

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