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Habib Doss, M.D.

Have you seen a purple ribbon this month? November is National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates 22,220 cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed, and 10,990 deaths will occur this year. Early detection is the best prevention against the disease. I would also encourage awareness of these two risk factors: Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria and pernicious anemia.

Stomach cancer is still an incurable disease, but we now have better than ever treatment options at Tennessee Oncology. Whereas chemotherapy has been used exclusively for treatment, we are now moving toward targeted therapies. We are discovering cancer cells’ triggers and attacking those cells directly – this is creating more stomach cancer survivors.

Just in April of 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a promising, new targeted therapy called ramucirumb. This drug is for patients battling advanced or metastatic, gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma that is progressive and unresponsive to specific types of chemotherapy. Ramucirumb, a monoclonal antibody administered by intravenous (IV) infusion, starves tumors by stopping their blood supply. Ramucirumb, when used with chemotherapy, increases patients’ chances of survival. Tennessee Oncology utilizes the drug in clinical trials.

For HER2-Positive patients, hope can be found in trastuzumab. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010, trastuzumab is a targeted therapy for patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal (GE) junction adenocarcinoma who have not received prior treatment. This drug, administered by intravenous (IV) infusion, aims at the HER2/neu protein and suppresses tumor growth. Trastuzumab, in conjunction with chemotherapy, increases patients’ chances of survival.

I highly recommend clinical trials to stomach cancer patients because potential improvements are possible – even when past treatments have failed. At Tennessee Oncology, we encourage patients to join clinical trials because of the potential to not only help themselves but help others, too. In addition to clinical trials, we offer many options for stomach cancer patients with a good response rate. Every patient deserves the chance to beat their cancer. Whether a patient is newly diagnosed or terminally ill, Tennessee Oncology’s cancer care approach is comprehensive – physical, emotional and financial needs are acknowledged. We understand that caring for cancer patients is a privilege.