Yesterday was a big day for me. I was extended an invite by my oncologist, Dr Sandler, to attend a tour at my hospital, Oregon Health and Science University, that was scheduled for Chris Draft, co-founder of Team Draft.
Details of the tour will take place over a few posts. My brain has been a bit scattered lately, I want to do the details justice by taking my time. One other thing… At the tour I did a horrible job of capturing images. I’ve been properly scolded by SW who was unable to attend.
The first part of the tour was the laboratory of Dr Chris Corless which looked nothing like the labs on television. The lab was located in the basement of an older building; cell phone service was nonexistent.
I got to check out biopsy material samples. It was strange to see the chunks of mass extracted from people, all were considered small but some were tiny. They were preserved in wax on plastic containers (image on the right) and available for testing as needed. Small slices of the samples would be taken, placed on glass slides, and examined to determine if the material is cancerous and then what kind. (Jamie, my friend on the tour, pointed out that the “slicer” was very similar to the kind at a deli counter but smaller and likely very expensive. If that helps create a picture since I failed and don’t have one.)
The step to remove the wax material from the sample slice takes about 24-hours. Good to know that results are not instant and the waiting time for patients is not to “build character”.
After seeing how little material was actually necessary to perform these tests, I wondered why repeat biopsies were necessary for me and others. I learned that a slice of tumor acts kind of like plastic wrap. When you make a slice it can fold back on itself and be damaged.
Here is where my brain got a little fuzzy. I’m going to do my best to explain, but more so link to other sites that I know will get the details correct. (Readers if you have corrections please place them in the comments below.)
Here is the machine that spits out the mutation data. I’m not exactly sure how, but the tumor data is placed on a semiconductor and run through this machine. About 2-hours later the kind of mutation or driver of the cancer is determined. (This machine has been upgraded. The new model will be online soon at OHSU.)
It was wonderful to see and hear about advances in cancer research. I feel comfortable saying that I am alive today because of the advances made in the last 5-years. Please, cancer scientists, keep up the good work!