Rob Ford’s Tumor Is Shrinking

Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has finally received some good news. Ford was diagnosed with a rare abdominal tumor, pleomorphic liposarcoma, in September.

According to his brother Doug Ford, Rob was completing his fifth round of chemotherapy this week when he doctors gave him the news that his tumor is shrinking. Originally the tumor measured 13 cm (5 inches), but is now 6 cm (2 inches).

Ford told the Toronto Sun on Monday that doctors believe huge doses of the anti-cancer chemotherapy drug Adriamycin helped shrink the tumor.

After a two week break, Ford is scheduled to undergo 25 days of radiation therapy. After this, doctors hope the tumor will be able to be surgically removed.

Brother Doug says this news is just what the family needed to hear during the Christmas season:

“Rob was signing Christmas cards, he was ecstatic. He knows he is in a battle for his life. [Now] everyone’s going to have a positive Christmas.”

According to the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative, the 5-year survival rate for  pleomorphic liposarcoma is 56%. Ten-year survival rates are 39%.

What is Adriamycin ?

Adriamycin, chemical name doxorubicin, is a chemotherapy agent that has been used for many years. It began clinical trials in the 1960’s when it was used for the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma.

Doxorubicin is in a class of medications called anthracyclines. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells in your body, and does it in several ways.

  • Doxorubicin–DNA_complex_1D12

    Two doxorubicin molecules inserted into DNA

    Molecules of doxorubicin insert themselves into the DNA of cancer cells, preventing the cells from replicating.

  • Doxorubicin also forms oxygen free radicals resulting in cell death
  • Doxirubicin inhibits an enzyme called topoisomerase II which helps DNA strands reconnect after being copied. Doxirubicin prevents the DNA double helix from being resealed.

Doxorubicin is used in combination with other medications to treat certain types of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, and ovarian cancer, lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkins), and leukemia  It is also used alone and in combination with other medications to treat certain types of thyroid cancer and certain types of soft tissue or bone sarcomas (cancer that forms in muscles and bones). It is also used to treat neuroblastoma (a cancer that begins in nerve cells and occurs mainly in children) and Wilms’ tumor (a type of kidney cancer that occurs in children).

What are the side effects of Adriamycin?

Like many other forms of chemotherapy, Doxorubicin may cause side effects, including:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sores in the mouth and throat
  • loss of appetite (and weight loss)
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • increased risk of infection

One of the most serious complications of chemotherapy with doxorubicin is cardiotoxicity (damage to the heart). The incidence of this heart damage is partially related to how much of the drug is given over time. Weakening of the heart muscle can lead to congestive heart failure.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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