Monday, January 23, 2006

At Athens Alone

At Athens alone. Some may recognise the phrase from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians chapter 3 verse 1.

I was in Athens to attend a meeting of the Oncology Network Europe on hematology cases. It was all a bit mysterious. The e-mail arrived promising an all expenses paid trip to Greece. Most people who received it were highly suspicious, thinking of it as some sort of Timeshare entrapment. In fact it seems to be all above board. You can check them out at their website at . I was very pleased that I went.

First, although the funders of the enterprise are clearly pharmaceutical companies, this was not drug company propaganda. The programme was set around difficult cases of myeloma, MDS, CLL, CML, and follicular lymphoma - just the diseases that I have spent my life dealing with. The speakers were experts from Sweden, Greece, Germany, Italy and the UK. Their expertise is unquestioned and they were completely up to date. There have been major therapeutic advances in all these disease in recent days, so it is important that physicians should be aware of them. But we were informed, not by a company representative, but by oncologists who have dissected the clinical trials and the scientific evidence.

The location was splendid and the hotel very comfortable. Those attending (I can't abide 'attendees' - 'ees' are always the object not the subject of the verb, as in employers and employess) those attending were mainly from southern and eastern Europe - Romania, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Georgia, Turkey. Most had kept up with the literature, but perhaps they were self selected (giving up a Saturday).

I was particularly interested in the role of immuno-radiotherapy with Bexxar and Zevalin. I had always disregarded these agents in CLL because they cannot be given if there are more than 25% B cells in the bone marrow. But, of course , after therapy the B cells count in the bone marrow may be far less than that. There is still the question of whether marrow reserve is sufficient after chemotherapy to withstand the radio-isotope. I would need to consult an expert on this.

There were a couple of hours of light left after the meeting finished. The Acropolis closes at 3pm so I went to the Areopagus (or Mars Hill - if you read the KJV). It was where Paul preached his famous sermon, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious." It is nearly 30 years since I last went there and the only change is that they have put in a steel staircase to replace the worn and slippery stone steps. You can see a picture of it at .

It was warm enough to walk around without a coat, and quite sunny. On the plane home I finished the Terry Pratchett children's book "A Hatful of Sky". Two useful snippets. I'm not, as I thought, afraid of heights. I walk past tall buildings and massive trees every day without the slightest feeling that they might fall on me. On the other hand I am afraid of depths. When I looked down from Mars Hill I felt sure I would fall in. The second is this: Life is like a balloon; it is important to hold on to the string.

I returned to 200 emails. Somebody had doubted that the lurkers were really lurking on the ACOR list and threatened them with bile beans. They wrote back pleading not to be purged.


Deb said...

What a wonderful discovery...I'm leary of depths! I'm collecting children's books for the grandchildren yet to come and will look to add that one. CLL has taught me to "hold onto the string" so I've considered my dx a blessing. I am determined that my someday grandchildren will know me, not know about me. I love your writings/teachings.

Jenny Lou said...

Bile beans indeed. (grin). It doesn't take alot to get a thread going. I have personally enjoyed it all. Nice to know that CLL doesn't kill fury or fun. Loved your post--travels sound wonderful-thanks for painting the picture for us.