On Friday, April 8, Multiple Myeloma claimed another victim with the death of Edward Jay Phillips. Mr. Phillips, 66, had battled MM for nine years and was a Board Member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). Mr. Phillips was the son of Pauline (Dear Abby) and Mort Phillips.
The irony was that Mr. Phillips was the nephew of Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers), his mother's twin sister. Ann Landers passed away, with Multiple Myeloma, in June, 2002 only six months after she was diagnosed. She might have lived longer had she chosen to receive treatment. However, in 2002 a new chemotherapy drug, Thalidomide, had just been approved by the FDA. This drug had been used for 'morning sickness' in the 1950s, and had been tied to birth defects. It was found that it could slow the growth of Multiple Myeloma, and was predicted to give the patient one or two additional years, but with side-effects.
How often is cancer passed down, via genes, from one family member to another? On the paternal side of my family, one aunt died from Multiple Myeloma (no relation to my honey); and of twenty-two first cousins there have been seven deaths - six from cancer. Two cousins are cancer survivors.
Of the six deaths:
Breast cancer - 1
Colon Cancer - 2
Prostate Cancer -1
My father came from a family of eight children - evenly split between four boys and four girls. All of the deaths, except one, were the children of three of his sisters. One sister lost her only two sons, one year apart, to Glioblastomas; one sister lost one son to colon cancer, one to prostate cancer, and her daughter is a cervical cancer survivor. The cousin that died from breast cancer had a daughter die from the same disease.
There were various types of cancers, in our family, but were they somehow genetically linked? Why were most of the deaths linked to the children of my father's sisters? What would have caused two brothers to have the same type of malignant brain tumors? What, if anything, links Jay Phillips to his mother's twin sister?
DNA holds many of the clues within our bodies and is currently being used to search for better therapies for treating MM http://www.myelomabeacon.com/news/2011/03/23/genome-sequencing-reveals-clues-about-the-underlying-causes-of-multiple-myeloma/
Perhaps, sometime in the future, more will be known if cancer is linked from generation to generation, family member to family member. When this is done, perhaps there will be a way to break the link.....find a cure. Dreaming? Maybe........but we only succeed when we aim high.