Seattle Doctor Takes Cancer Treatment To Developing World

May 27, 2015
Mother and son in the children's ward at Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala.
KUOW Photo/Joanne Silberner

Forty-two-year-old Corey Casper is tall, thin, and a bit hollow-eyed from all his responsibilities. He’s a cancer doctor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He performs research and trains young doctors in Seattle and Uganda. And in his own quiet way, he wants to make a difference in the world.

It's difficult to imagine that a seven-story glass building will soon take the place of what's now a vast hole near the corner of Carnegie Avenue and 105th Street in Cleveland. But Cliff Kazmierczak, who is with Turner Construction and overseeing the transformation, points to the gray sky, tracing a silhouette with his fingertips. In two years, he says, the Cleveland Clinic's nearly $300 million cancer center is slated to open here.

Anne Koller was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer in 2011 and has been fighting it since.

But it's not just the cancer she's fighting. It's the bills.

"Think of those old horror flicks," she says. "The swamp creature ... comes out and is kind of oozy, and it oozes over everything."

When she was able to work, Koller, who just turned 65, was in the corporate world and safely middle-class, with health insurance and plenty of savings.

At first, she was too sick to deal with the bills. They piled up.

The Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center as seen from Lake Union.
Flickr Photo/sea turtle (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Luke Timmerman, of the Timmerman Report, about the Fred Hutchinson's Cancer Research Center's efforts to find new ways to bring in revenue for research. 

MaryAnn Anselmo feared for the worst when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a glioblastoma in late 2013.

"You start doing research on that type of tumor, and you're saying, 'Oh my God, you're history.' It's like a death sentence," says, Anselmo, now 59.

Only for her it wasn't.

Anselmo's successful treatment shows how precision medicine — tailoring therapy to each patient's genetic needs — is beginning to transform cancer care.

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

When children are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia now, they have more than a 90 percent chance of survival.

But when James Eversull was told he had leukemia in 1964, there wasn't much hope.

He was just 18 months old when his parents discovered what was wrong.

Breast cancer: Radiographic marker in lumpectomy specimen
Flickr Photo/Ed Uthman (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Dr. Joann Elmore, University of Washington professor of medicine, about the findings of her new study that suggest the results of breast cancer biopsy tests might not be accurate.

Dr. Mary-Claire King
University of Washington/Mary Levin

Marcie Sillman talks with University of Washington professor Dr. Mary-Claire King about her groundbreaking research that changed the way we treat breast cancer today. 

When a doctor tells a patient that she has cancer and has just a year left to live, that patient often hears very little afterward. It's as though the physician said "cancer" and then "blah, blah, blah."

Anxiety makes it difficult to remember details and the worse the prognosis, the less the patient tends to remember. Recent studies have found that cancer patients retain less than half of what their doctors tell them.

When Barbara Marder was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, she had part of her right lung removed, went through a round of chemotherapy and tried to move on with her life.

"I had hoped that everything was fine — that I would not create difficulty for my children, that I would get to see my grandchildren grow up," says Marder, 73, of Arnold, Md.

But a routine scan a year later found bad news: The cancer was back — this time in her other lung.

Heather Weinert Owain Weinert cancer vaccines
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Owain Weinert, at age 8, hadn’t been eating breakfast and was sleeping 12 to 14 hours a night. For months, mysterious fevers came and went.

His mother took him to the pediatrician, who in turn sent them to a lab for a blood test. They then went to lunch, which Owain didn’t eat.

biotech file photo
Flickr Photo/HCC PIO (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Marcie Sillman talks to Luke Timmerman about the growth of a Seattle biotech company, Adaptive Biotechnologies, and what it means for the city's biotechnology industry.

China Warns Of Cancer Epidemic

Nov 19, 2014

Cancer rates may be falling in many Western countries, but they are rising steadily in China. The country’s top health officials have issued a strong warning about the spread of cancer.

All types of the disease are, it seems, becoming increasingly common. Blame the effects of pollution and unhealthy habits.

The BBC’s Celia Hatton traveled to the coastal city of Tianjin to see how Asia’s largest cancer treatment center is handling the onslaught.

Ross Reynolds talks to Seattle biotech writer Luke Timmerman about the biotech company Dendreon, which filed for bankruptcy after their prostate cancer drug failed to make a sizable profit.