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Op-Ed: As I Lay Dying

February 22, 2015
Former staff writer for the LA Times Laurie Becklund shares her experience ‘climbing ladders and falling down chutes’ as a metastatic breast cancer patient in this powerful op-ed. Becklund died in February, but left behind insights on how to improve the care and treatment of life-threatening diseases based on her first-hand experience.

Becklund advocates for the creation of a ‘new system of data collection and an open, online, broad-range database about patient histories.’ This information can then be used to better treat and cure disease.

After being told repeatedly that she had failed on numerous therapies, she asserts that the healthcare system and its therapies failed her. She writes, ‘The system we live in as metastatic breast cancer patients is simply not designed to deal with the cycle we are living and dying in. The estimated 40,000 women (and a few men) who die annually can't wait years for FDA-approved, “gold standard” clinical trials. We're dying now.’

As Becklund points out, breast cancer is not one disease and there is no single cure. Add to that the fact that each patient is unique and what works for one patient may not work for another patient. So, in effect, what we learn from these clinical trials is lost each time a patient dies since ‘there is no comprehensive database of metastatic breast cancer patients, their characteristics and what treatments did and didn't help them.’

Becklund calls this void criminal.

‘Why can't we create such a database for cancer patients, so we can all learn from patient experiences and make more educated decisions on what treatments will extend and improve lives?...It will come too late for me. But it is possible to end the game.’

Becklund’s call to action comes at a time of heightened attention toward patient-focused drug development. The search for treatments and cures must include the patient voice, and be guided by patient data and information that will help us better understand disease.

Transforming healthcare is no small task, but patients are worth it. We must expedite the discovery, development and delivery of treatments and cures.

We have prioritized patient-focused drug development and the creation of a longitudinal study capturing patient data and information in the 21st Century Cures Initiative proposals, which can be found here. We can be successful in these efforts only with the ongoing engagement from patients and the patient community.

Becklund believed it was possible to end the game. It is up to us, together, to end the game and help patients.

Becklund’s op-ed can be found at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-becklund-breast-cancer-komen-20150222-story.html#page=1.