CBS News Logo Ultra-personal therapy: How gene tumor boards guide cancer care

SAN DIEGO — Doctors were just guessing a decade ago when they gave Alison Cairnes' husband a new drug they hoped would shrink his lung tumors. Now she takes it too, but the choice was no guesswork. Sophisticated gene tests suggested it would fight her gastric cancer, and they were right. Cancer patients increasingly are having their care guided by gene tumor boards, a new version of the hospital panels that traditionally decided whether surgery, radiation or chemotherapy would be best. These experts study the patient's cancer genes and match treatments to mutations that seem to drive the disease. "We dissect the patient's tumor with what I call the molecular microscope," said Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, who started a board at the University of California, San Diego, where Cairnes is treated. It's the kind of care many experts say we should aim for — precision medicine, the right drug for the right person at the right time, guided by genes. There are success stories, but also some failures and many questions: Will gene-guided care improve survival? Does it save money or cost more? What kind of gene testing is best, and who should get it? "I think every patient needs it," especially if cancer is advanced, said Kurzrock, who consults for some gene-medicine companies. "Most people don't agree with me — yet. In five years, it may be malpractice not to do genomics." Few people get precision medicine today, said Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. "The only thing that's gone mainstream are the words." If you have a cancer that might be susceptible to a gene-targeting drug, you may be tested for mutations in that gene, such as HER2 for breast cancer. Some breast or prostate cancer patients also might get a multi-gene test to gauge how aggressive treatment should be. Then most patients get usual guideline-based treatments. If there's no clear choice, or if the disease has spread or comes back, doctors may suggest tumor profiling Continue Reading

Buddy Ryan, father of Jets’ Rex & Cowboys’ Rob, plans to attend NFL opener despite cancer diagnosis

At 10 a.m. on Friday, Jets coach Rex Ryan's father, Buddy, the former coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, plans to board a flight in Louisville to head for Newark. He will visit with family before going to his grandson Seth's evening football game for Summit High School, then stay through Sunday night when the Jets host the Dallas Cowboys and Rex's twin brother, Rob, the defensive coordinator. "I won't miss it," Buddy Ryan told the Daily News via phone. "It's a family occasion." The elder Ryan, now 80, was diagnosed with cancer in his "glands through his neck" last week, Rob Ryan said. He will have an operation in Kentucky on Sept. 16, having postponed surgery in order to attend the game. Buddy noted that his third son, Jim, a lawyer, will fly in from St. Louis for the game as well. "I've always been a Jets fan because that was my first pro job," said Buddy, who worked in New York as a defensive line coach from 1968-75. "I'll root for Rob, too. I just hope no one gets hurt on either side." The patriarch of the football family has battled health issues recently. He's overcome melanoma, a severe type of skin cancer, twice, as well as encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain. Rex Ryan called the cancer "a huge concern," but noted that his father had anticipated the matchup since the day the game was announced. "He's looked forward to this for a long time," Rex said. "It's going to be great to have him here." Rob and Rex speak two or three times per week, and leading up to the game will be no different. Rex said his brother is approaching the road trip as vacation, requesting upgrades for his wife's seats at the game and for a Broadway show. "I'm giving him as much crap as I can to distract him," Rob said. Little is taboo to the Cowboys coordinator. When asked about the foot-fetish videos featuring Rex and a woman resembling his wife Michelle, Rob Ryan brushed it off. "Aw hell, who cares?" Rob Ryan said to reporters in the Cowboys' locker Continue Reading

Buddy Ryan fighting cancer, but Jets coach Rex Ryan says ‘tough old’ father ‘should be all right’

NEW ORLEANS - Rex Ryan walked out of a meeting room Tuesday afternoon and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and called his wife Michelle. "How's Dad?" he asked. Rex Ryan told the Daily News that his father Buddy, who he always speaks about with reverence, was recently diagnosed with cancer. Michelle Ryan was with Buddy Tuesday as he underwent tests and received a second opinion at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. "It's going to take more than this to get rid of him," Rex Ryan said. "That's what he always says." Ryan was not specific about what type of cancer his father was diagnosed with "a couple of weeks ago." He seemed to be handling his father's illness well. Ryan has been in an upbeat mood all week at the league meetings. "He's 80 years old, but he's doing great. He's tougher than (s---)," Ryan said of his father, who actually turned 77 last month. "He's had other things in his life. He overcame encephalitis. He's overcome cancer twice. He's tough." Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain. Ryan said the cancer that his father beat in the past each time was melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. All he would say about his father's condition Tuesday is that the cancer this time is not melanoma. "It's something else. I'm not going to get into it," he said. "He's a tough old guy. He's getting a second opinion. He should be all right." The past four months have been difficult for Rex Ryan. In December, videos surfaced on a website that showed a woman who appeared to be Michelle Ryan having a suggestive conversation about her feet with a man, who was off-camera and sounded just like Rex. Ryan limited his comments to saying it was a personal matter. Then in January, the Jets came within a game of the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. After the Jets dominated the Patriots in Foxborough in the divisional round of the playoffs, the second most important victory in team history after Continue Reading

Kids with rare UV affliction will have day out of the sun at Yankee Stadium

CRARYVILLE, N.Y. - As the last lethal rays of daylight cede to darkness, you can feel the energy and excitement building here, giving this tiny Hudson Valley hamlet (pop. 1,454) the aura of a tree-clad theme park.Chris Soto, a beefy 16-year-old from Brooklyn with baggy plaid shorts and a crooked Mets hat, is about to hop on a bus with his friends to get an ice cream cone. Katie Mahar, an ebullient senior at Taconic Hills High School, is part of the entourage heading to a local farm to see lambs and goats and pigs.Wendy Thomas, 24, of Athens, Texas, soon will be sitting with a dozen others by a campfire, playing games beneath a star-studded sky.It is a nightly ritual at Camp Sundown, a bucolic retreat spread over 60 acres, where day is night, night is day and Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) isn't merely a horrific and deadly genetic disorder, but a reason to come together."At quarter to nine every night, life happens," says Caren Mahar. "The doors open and people start flying outside."Caren and Dan Mahar started Camp Sundown 14 years ago, shortly after daughter Katie was diagnosed with XP, a rare and incurable skin condition characterized by acute sensitivity to light, ultraviolet rays damaging cells beyond repair and leaving patients 2,000 times more cancer-prone than a non-XP person.The upshot is that if you have XP, you live your life under virtual house arrest during daylight hours, a life that leans heavily toward isolation and unrelenting gloom - not least because until recently it was almost unheard of for an XP person to live beyond the age of 30.The mission of Camp Sundown is to create a safe place for XP patients to have a joyful, nocturnal experience - "to make a little magic out of the misery," Caren Mahar says.They plan trips to boats and firehouses and tourist attractions, but have never had an outing anything close to the one they will have this Thursday night, when 60 campers and family members will have the run of the Yankee Stadium field after the Continue Reading

Fun-loving Nick Swisher having time of his life with Yankees

Nick Swisher is bouncing - there is no other word, really - through the Yankee clubhouse before a recent game, pausing briefly to high-five a reporter and bark at Phil Hughes about college football. Swisher stops at his funhouse of a locker, and when another writer asks to talk to the Yankee right fielder for a story focusing on his personality, Swisher looks up and says, deadpan, "You'd better have a lot of pages." Then Swisher cackles and sits down. Life is good for Swisher these days and why not? He is having a terrific season, re-energizing a promising career that took a step backward in 2008 with the White Sox, and helping to inject life into the team's clubhouse, a mostly staid place in recent years. He's been embraced by fans who enjoy his gregarious nature - Swisher regularly rolls down the window of his car as he leaves the ballpark, joking and waving to onlookers. Some fans put together a Web site devoted to getting him voted to the All-Star Game. He has 827,723 followers on the Internet service Twitter; the Yankees' own Twitter page has about 1,500 followers.His "Swisher's Salute" during the roll call popularized by fans in right field has been immortalized in a T-shirt that those fans made. Swisher has five of the shirts hanging in his locker. "Nick's got a different personality, I would say, than we've seen on this club," Andy Pettitte says. "Nick loves to talk, that's for sure. He's been fun to be around and very respectful, still. It's just been a good situation.""He's had an impact on the clubhouse," adds Johnny Damon, whose locker is next to Swisher's. "When I came over, I mean, this place was kinda dead, you know? I almost had to watch everything I said. I didn't want to upset anyone. But having characters in here has helped everyone. It's kind of like how Kevin Millar helped me in Boston - we changed the way things were in Boston, but it took another guy to put it full throttle."It's completely different in here now. It's great, we're in this Continue Reading

McCourt’s Stuyvesant students recall nurturer who brought classics to life

It's been more than 30 years, but one of Frank McCourt's first students at Stuyvesant High School still remembers the note he wrote in her yearbook."Viva la Faith - one of the best - a fine writer - a charming person!" he wrote to Faith Reilly in 1975. "So many years later, I still cried when I heard he died," Reilly said yesterday from her home in Flushing, Queens. "I have not seen him in 33 or 34 years, and I still cried." McCourt worked in city public schools for nearly three decades before he retired in the late 1980s. McCourt and Reilly started at Stuyvesant in the same year - 1972 - he as a veteran educator, she as a sophomore transfer. "I'm very proud to say he was my teacher," said Reilly, now 51. "He brought the classics alive. I was not a big reader back then, until he taught us 'Moby Dick.' I mean, the whale was in our classroom. I read everything ["Moby Dick" author Herman] Melville wrote after that. All of a sudden, I spent all my time in the library because of Frank McCourt." The luminary died on Sunday night of meningitis after battling melanoma. He was 78. His Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Angela's Ashes," made him famous in 1996, but to his students, McCourt was a star long before. Former student Susan Gilman - who has become an author - said McCourt would "sing lascivious folk songs, read recipes as poetry and write dialogue between inanimate objects." In teaching "The Scarlet Letter," he described Hester Prynne as "a sexual renegade." "I mean, wow," said Gilman, now 44. "The man got us teenagers excited about the Puritans." McCourt was a regular at the Lion's Head, a famous former Greenwich Village bar and writers hangout. Judy Joice, a former co-owner of the Lion's Head, said McCourt started drinking there in the 1970s - long before his writing career began. "The crowd in those days didn't just accept anyone, but they took him in," said Joice, 60. "They thought he was a happy English teacher. It wasn't obvious that he wanted to be a writer." Continue Reading

Byron Pitts’ 10-year wait for ’60 Mins.’

Byron Pitts joined CBS News a decade ago as a general news correspondent, but the goal was to always get to "60 Minutes." Well, he's arrived. Pitts has been named a contributing correspondent to the venerable broadcast, producing a minimum of six pieces a year. "I wanted to be a part of '60 Minutes' since I was in high school," Pitts, 48, told the Daily News Monday. "For me, '60 Minutes' is to broadcast journalism what the Yankees are to baseball: It's the gold standard." Pitts said he mentioned being part of "60 Minutes" during his first interview at CBS News and in every conversation he's had with senior management since. "He is not at all shy about saying, 'I should be on this broadcast, how come it hasn't happened yet?'" said Jeff Fager, executive producer of "60 Minutes." "He doesn't hold back. It is a dream of his to be on '60 Minutes.' There's a real excitement about that, and I share it." Pitts joined the network in May 1998 after a stint working for a CBS-affiliated stations' news service, and was initially based in Miami. He then worked in Atlanta and moved to New York in 2001. "I think he's earned it," said CBS News President Sean McManus, noting Pitts' work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as at Ground Zero and in hurricanes. "He's developed into an outstanding journalist with an incredible humanity." To get on "60 Minutes," a correspondent has to have a "certain distinctiveness," McManus said, and "Byron has that quality." A piece Pitts did for "CBS Evening News" a year ago, about a Marine who died after military doctors misdiagnosed a melanoma, is often cited as an example of the emotion of his work. Pitts was at the house when the man died, then sat with the family to talk about what happened. "There are things that I have been blessed with the capacity to do well, a complicated story told simply and told well," Pitts said of the Marine story. "A story about the human condition. ... We treated the military, the Continue Reading

John McCain appears cancer-free, healthy, would be oldest first-term prez

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. - Three-time melanoma survivor John McCain appears cancer-free, has a strong heart and is in otherwise general good health, according to eight years of medical records reviewed by The Associated Press. The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting remains at risk for developing new skin cancers, and gets a thorough check by a Mayo Clinic dermatologist every few months. "I do not see any worrisome lesions," Dr. Suzanne Connolly concluded after McCain's most recent exam, on May 12. The details of McCain's health are contained in 1,173 pages of medical documents spanning 2000 to 2008 that his campaign made available to the AP to make the case that he's healthy enough to serve as president, as well as to counter the notion that he's too old. The Arizona senator will turn 72 in August and would be the oldest elected first-term president. Like many aging Americans, McCain takes medicine to keep his cholesterol in check. But Mayo internist Dr. John Eckstein, his longtime personal physician, lauded McCain's performance on a heart stress test — sweating it out for 10 minutes when Eckstein routinely sees patients decades younger quit at five or seven minutes. "I think physiologically he is considerably younger than his chronologic age based on his cardiovascular fitness," Eckstein said in an interview Thursday. "I got a call from the cardiologist who said that he had not seen anyone that age exercise for that long in a long time." McCain's most recent exams show a range of health issues common in aging: He frequently has precancerous skin lesions removed, and in February had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed. He had benign colon growths called polyps taken out during a routine colonoscopy in March. The Vietnam veteran has degenerative arthritis from war injuries that might mean a future joint replacement. His blood pressure and weight were healthy, and his cholesterol good but not Continue Reading

Picks of the NFL litter

With the NFL Draft underway, The Score has decided to give you our picks for the best players drafted in their draft slot over the past 25 years. Here's a look: No. 1: John Elway, Colts, 1983 It's not an easy decision between Elway and Peyton Manning until you ask yourself who you'd rather have down by four points with two minutes to go in a big game. Elway also never had a receiver as good as Marvin Harrison, or running backs as good as Marshall Faulk. Honorable mention: Peyton Manning (Colts, 1998), Bruce Smith (Bills, 1985) Biggest bust: Ki-Jana Carter (Bengals, 1995) No. 2: Marshall Faulk (Colts, 1994) Faulk helped the Colts become a playoff team before Manning arrived, and may be the best receiver as a running back in NFL history. His 2,429 yards from scrimmage in 1999 as part of the Greatest Show on Turf with the Super Bowl champion Rams put him over the top in the debate with Eric Dickerson. Honorable mention: Eric Dickerson (Rams, 1983), Donovan McNabb (Eagles, 1999) Biggest bust: Ryan Leaf (Chargers, 1998) No. 3: Barry Sanders (Lions, 1989) The Cowboys picked a fellow Hall of Famer at No. 1 in Troy Aikman, but Green Bay tackle Tony Mandarich is the Sam Bowie of a draft class that produced 10 players who made five or more Pro Bowls. Honorable mention: Steve McNair (Oilers, 1995), Carl Banks (Giants, 1984) Biggest bust: Akili Smith (Bengals, 1999) No. 4: Willie McGinest (Patriots, 1994) The defensive anchor of New England's run to three championships. The Bengals took Dan Wilkinson at No. 1, while Heath Shuler went to the Redskins at No. 3. Honorable mention: Edgerrin James (Colts, 1999), Chris Doleman (Vikings, 1985) Biggest bust: Keith McCants (Buccaneers, 1990) No. 5: Deion Sanders (Falcons, 1989) This is spot most open for debate. How do you pick between three electrifying players in Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson and Junior Seau? Neon Deion beats Seau in Super Bowl rings, 2-0. Prime Time also beats Tomlinson in Continue Reading


A superman with the slices. To please a picky pizza-loving town, it takes one passionate pizza maker. Even though he'll turn 70 next month, Dominic (Dom) DeMarco works 12-hour days in his Midwood, Brooklyn, pizza parlor. He rarely takes a day off and makes every pizza himself, using imported San Marzano tomatoes, imported mozzarella and herbs often grown on his window sill. Whether you get a slice or a pie, he'll cook everything to order - meaning he freshly grates the real Parmesan and slices the fresh mozz. DeMarco may not do much in the way of creating ambience - it's paper plates and folding tables here - but his labor-intensive (yet fairly priced) pizzas are arguably the best in the city. Survivor's aid Melissa B. Sohn's emma&me jewelry line was already a top seller at Bloomingdale's and regular InStyle magazine cover accessory when the 32-year-old mother's life came to a crashing halt last year. Sohn was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer among young women. "I fell to my knees," upon finding out, recalls a tearful Sohn. "I'll ­never forget the feeling of falling to the ground. " Sohn had multiple chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, but still fears it might return - "and if it does, I will die," she says. "That's when I decided I needed to fight back. " The result: Her Live4Life foundation, started in February, has raised $1 million for research and awareness in less than a year, much of it due to sales of her Live4Life pendant. It's for sale at emmaandme. com, and all proceeds benefit the foundation. Dedicated educator Forget no child left behind, Nilda Gomez-Katz has instituted "No Child Left Unvisited. " This Brooklyn high school principal goes the distance. Gomez-Katz plans to visit all the 108 freshmen at the Academy for Environmental Leadership by the end of the year just to nurture a relationship with the families that will help keep the kids in school until graduation. Not only Continue Reading