Medical Writer Update

Keeping in Touch

Volume 2, Issue 2—Spring 2011


If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be . . .


What a spring! I’ve done more travel in the past two months than I usually do all year! A CME roundtable on dry eye disease, an American Medical Writers Association freelance workshop, the American Thoracic Society meeting, the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals annual meeting, and, the cherry on top—American Society of Clinical Oncology!


Yes, I attended my first ASCO last week, focusing on all presentations and posters connected with ovarian cancer. Although the meeting itself was huge, and the hallways at the McCormick Place often resembled I-95 during rush hour, the ability to hone in on the research presented in a specific therapeutic area provided the kind of in-depth education medical writers rarely receive.


By now you’ve likely heard the major stories out of ASCO—the remarkable increase in overall survival using new compounds in melanoma; the potential for the aromatase inhibitor exemestane to replace tamoxifen and raloxifene (rarely used) as a breast cancer preventative in high-risk women; and the benefits in progression-free and overall survival of adding bevacizumab to chemotherapy regimens for women with ovarian cancer, as well as potential new options for women with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.


The overarching message was  that the promise of personalized medicine we’ve been talking about for the past few years is finally being realized, with new biomarkers identified, new assays developed to evaluate tumor types, and drug trials in subsets of patients designed to take advantage of the link between biomarker and targeted therapy.


I also had the pleasure of working with some of the top physicians in ovarian cancer. They demonstrated incredible patience in explaining the particulars of this new-to-me therapeutic area.


Wandering the football-field sized (or larger) exhibit space, I was particularly struck by the depth of the cancer pipeline in large, well-known pharmas and biotechs (can you say “Genentech?”) as well as the plethora of companies from the US and Europe I’d never heard of that were, nonetheless, moving forward with their own biologics or new chemotherapies.


I also held several interesting conversations with clinicians about the conundrum posed by this explosion in targeted therapies. There are the financial questions, such as whether it is worth it to spend $30,000 a month on a drug that provides a median 2.5 month survival benefit; the ethical questions, such as whether you should start a patient on a fifth-line therapy with the potential for grade 3 and 4 toxicities or focus on palliative care; and the challenges of practicing oncology in an era when the permutations of therapies are nearly endless. As one doctor told me, “There is no other specialty in which the art of medicine is practiced so intensely.”


I’m keeping my fingers crossed I get to observe that “art” again next year.


Coming Up


The travel is, thankfully, over for a while, unless someone needs me to cover an ad board or meeting. Things heat up again in the fall with several speaking engagements at the American Medical Writer’s Association annual meeting in Jacksonville and coverage of the American College of Rheumatology and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine meetings.



Have a great summer, everyone!



From the Blog


Year One of
Healthcare Reform


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Debra Gordon, MS



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