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Taxol: then and now.

When my administrative assistant, Janet McKinley, was diagnosed with breast cancer, we were devastated. I am not an oncologist, but when the surgeon came out to tell me that the cancer was not an aggressive kind, I breathed a sign of relief. He was absolutely right--Janet is a 17-year breast cancer survivor. The most difficult part of her recovery was due to pain from muscles taken from her back for breast reconstruction. Now she advises her friends who need a mastectomy to purchase the best-padded bras available and forego the pain of breast reconstruction with borrowed muscle tissue from other body parts.

At the time of Janet's diagnosis and treatment, we were investigating the potential benefit of fighting cancer with a compound called paclitaxel found in the bark of Pacific yew trees and bushes. In 1991, we brought in yew-related shrubs from Oregon and planted them on the Fitness Farm grounds in hopes they might someday provide lifesaving therapy for cancer patients.

Today, paclitaxel is sold under the trade name Taxol and is approved for treating breast, lung, ovarian, and other cancers. In addition, it is used as a coating on some types of stents to help prevent re-narrowing of heart vessels. Taxotere (generic name: docetaxel), a newer member of the taxane class of chemotherapies, is indicated for some women with advanced breast cancer. And, in another fortunate turn of events, scientists discovered ways to commercially produce paclitaxel--preserving Pacific yew trees (one of the world's slowest growing trees) as well as our Fitness Farm shrubs pictured below.

Cory SerVaas, M.D.
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Title Annotation:Women's Wellness; paclitaxel
Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:261
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