Making cancer less scary

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Your generosity is making cancer less scary for more people

If you or someone you love has ever received a cancer diagnosis, you know that one of the most frightening things in the world is the prospect of chemotherapy.


Dr. Herbst rides in the Closer to Free Ride every year. One of his greatest pleasures is when he sees a patient under treatment with these new therapies riding beside him. “Years ago, they would have been terribly sick. Now they’re beating me in the ride!”

FOR DECADES, chemotherapy has been the standard treatment for most cancers. And although it may or may not be effective at stopping the disease, “patients are sure to have one thing: side effects,” says Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, and chief of medical oncology, Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital.

Chemotherapy does a great job killing cancer cells— that’s why it’s used. But chemotherapy drugs cannot discriminate between cancer cells and other kinds of cells in the body, such as cells in the lining of the mouth, the digestive system, skin, nerves, and blood cells, among others.

That’s why difficult side effects are so common. Symptoms like hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and damage to the heart and nerves in the hands and feet.

For Steve Martovich (cover story) and many other cancer patients, the side effects from chemotherapy treatment can be even worse than cancer symptoms. “Chemo is poison and it takes a heavy toll,” Steve says.

But as leading cancer researchers like Dr. Herbst discover new ways to treat cancer, all that is starting to change.

Two new effective treatments with fewer side effects

Targeted therapy uses drugs designed to work with laserlike precision on only cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone. And immunotherapy uses drugs that don’t attack cells at all. Instead, immunotherapy drugs supercharge the body’s own immune system to effectively fight the cancer cells.

Both of these exciting new approaches are effective at treating cancer — often more effective than traditional options. And side effects are much fewer and less severe.

Thanks to your support, when it comes to finding new ways to treat cancer, “Smilow is leading the way,” says Dr. Herbst. “Smilow Cancer Hospital offers our patients innovative options and treatments that are often not available at other hospitals.”

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