Today we introduce you to stage IV colorectal cancer survivor and Ph.D. scientist Dr. Tom Marsilje and kick off his new blog series, “The Currently Incurable Scientist” on the Fight CRC blog! Through our partnership with The Colon Club, we met Tom and immediately became impressed not only with his “insider” knowledge but his passion to help explain the science to patients in very practical, easy-to-understand terms. Tom graciously agreed to blog for us from his perspective as both a CRC patient and a researcher.
Since this is my first blog for Fight Colorectal Cancer, I wanted to introduce myself and what I hope to accomplish with this new blog series, “The Currently Incurable Scientist.”
First the Basics:
My name is Dr. Tom Marsilje and I have “currently incurable” stage IV colon cancer. I am a Ph.D. researcher who’s performed oncology new drug discovery for over 20 years, including co-inventing an FDA-approved therapy for lung cancer… so I have a very unique viewpoint on cancer!
I’ve been a caregiver (my mother had pancreatic cancer), a researcher for decades and since 2012, I’ve been a Stage IV CRC patient myself. Cancer has truly wound its way throughout my life, in one form or another.
I have been writing a widely-read personal blog about life at the interface of being both a patient and an oncology scientist. I am also a model for the 2016 Colondar 2.0 being published next March by the Colon Club. It was at the Colondar 2.0’s incredible photoshoot/interview/patient retreat (we affectionately called it “Colon Camp”) that I met Danielle Burgess from Fight Colorectal Cancer and we came up with the idea for this new blog partnership! I am very grateful and excited that the close relationship between Fight Colorectal Cancer & The Colon Club brought us together!
Where I Would Like This Blog to Go:
One thing I’ve noticed is that there is a need — no, more than that — a true thirst in the patient & caregiver community to learn and understand the science behind new CRC therapies and clinical trials. Having this information is empowering and it facilitates better informed medical discussions with a medical team.
I plan on covering a range of scientific topics including: recent clinical trial results, new trials opening up and even a smattering of novel CRC drug strategies getting close but not quite yet entering the clinical trials phase yet.
I will not be focusing on early scientific research that is years away from clinical trials. I believe most of our readership will be interested in drugs that are already in clinical trials or which may enter trials in the next year.
How I Would Like to Get There:
This is where I think things will get interesting. I don’t plan on writing the standard, dry medical information site – there are plenty of other great places to read that! Perhaps because I am a scientist instead of MD, I plan to take some leeway and write about the science in easily understood terms with passion and excitement! I truly do love science and oncology research and I want that excitement to infuse into you along with the factual information I’ll be presenting!
In terms of oncology, I can honestly say there has never been as much true excitement in scientific circles about the incredible pace of new & exciting cancer drugs coming down pipelines as there is right now – from ever improving targeted therapies to the truly groundbreaking & paradigm shifting new wave of immunotherapies!
This is not hype.
Because of the advent of immunotherapies showing significant clinical activity just within the past few years against multiple tumor types (most recently seen in a MMR-deficient CRC preliminary clinical trial released at ASCO-2015!), the entire field of oncology drug discovery has experienced a seismic shift in just the past few years. Those in my field feel like we’re living in our “sputnik” moment.
The required technology & scientific pieces are now finally coming together and billions of dollars are now being spent by thousands of companies, research universities, cancer centers, public and private scientists – all with the shared goal to cure (yes, you heard me right, cure) significant percentages of adult cancers. This is a break from the traditional goals of treating advanced adult cancers, such as stage IV CRC, with the goal of relatively modest elongation of lifespan.
This is why I always describe myself as “currently incurable.” From my inside view, I can see so many promising new CRC drugs & strategies approaching or already in clinical trials, I can’t feel anything but optimistic that major CRC treatment breakthroughs are right around the corner! I am a firm believer that once you have a critical mass of both extreme levels of funding & smart minds across so many countries, companies, universities, research hospitals and cancer centers – the human race can solve amazingly complex problems – of which cancer is one of the biggest.
When it comes to cancer research, I believe we are currently living in that moment.
Will advances be made fast enough to save my own life? I firmly believe that most cases of advanced CRC will be cured within my wife’s lifetime – I hope (and believe there is a chance) that it may happen in my lifetime!
Why I Have Hope
There’s that word “HOPE” finally appearing in my post. From my insider’s view, I have a lot of HOPE and I hope that through my writing, the feeling will be infectious – because it should be!
In my next post I’ll begin tackling exciting fields of science starting with the next wave of experimental immunotherapies! Thank you for reading – I hope our time together in the coming months is informative, useful and dare I say it – fun & exciting – like all good science should be! To Life!
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