Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Cancer and Us


As I prepare our coverage on Monday for ASCO--the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting--it is easy to get lost in the mind-numbing amount of data, caught up in the battles we've been drawn into with ASCO media relations and one company, in particular, that shall remain unnamed, the controversy over the ASCO data distribution policy and all of the volatility in certain stocks. But cancer touches all of us. And my family is no exception.

Nearly a year-and-a-half ago my mom died of metastatic kidney cancer. By the time they caught it the cancer had spread all over the place, including her brain. She got radiation, which I think may have bought her a few more weeks, but within a few months of her diagnosis she passed away. Although she may not have shared the amount of pain or discomfort she might have been in--she said she never wanted to be a burden--as far as my family could tell she really only had a miserable couple of days at the very end. And for that we're grateful. I had  counseled her not to go through the radiation, fearing it would make whatever time she had left even more unbearable, but she decided to do it anyway. After all, it was her choice.

I told her about Onyx Pharmaceuticals'/Bayer's Nexavar, Pfizer's Sutent (at the time I think they had just come to market or were on the verge of being approved) and ongoing clinical trials of Genentech's Avastin for kidney cancer. But she didn't pursue any of them. Although she had quit in recent years, my mom smoked for decades. Smoking is a significant contributing factor in developing renal cancer.

CNBC allowed me to work for several weeks at a time during those final months of my mom's life from our Burbank bureau, so I could spend time with her at home in L.A. I took advantage of that time to say and do all of the things I thought I would regret not saying or doing after she died. But I have to live with one regret. Once I was back in New Jersey, my brother called to tell me my mom had taken a sudden turn for the worse. We were heading into earnings season. And Pfizer was reporting the next day. I stupidly chose work. I stayed here to cover Pfizer's earnings and at the end of that day my brother called again to say it was only a matter of time. I rushed to the airport to jump on the next flight and before they closed the cabin door I called my sister just to say I was on my way. She told me my mom had just passed away. I'm choking back tears as I write that.

My mom followed my grandmother who died of breast cancer in the early 1980s. And my uncle--my grandmother's son--died a few years later, also of cancer.

I can't think of anything either poignant or what would end up sounding trite to end this.

Off to Chicago for ASCO. We'll be live from there on Monday with new data and interviews with CEOs and executives from some of the companies in play.

Questions?  Comments?