An Integrative Approach to Cancer Treatment with Lindsey Minter, PhD.
Hey, Friend! 😊
I have a great interview to share with you! Some of you may have been present for this last year, but my friend Lindsey Minter, PhD, Principal of Career Services and mentor to medical students at Baylor College of Medicine and Independent Scientific Consultant of her own firm, recipient of 26 awards and member of a dozen organizations, former faculty lecturer, assistant director of graduate education, graduate research assistant, research technician, instructor, supervisor, student researcher; and earned her doctorate degree studying Genes and Development and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology with the thesis: Dissecting The Roles Of TRIM24 In Regulation Of Hepatic Lipid Metabolism And Inflammation!!
Lindsey shared her expertise in the area of cancer research and integrative medicine and you'll be encouraged to hear about the work she and her colleagues are doing bridging the gap between holistic and conventional medicine! Did you know, there are different holistic areas of cancer research that are fully funded at Lindsey's alma mater, MD Anderson Cancer Center, such as mistletoe therapy and curcumin?!
Lindsey is also training up young doctors in integrative cancer care to carry on this important work, providing excellent resources on cancer for you and your loved ones to help navigate your cancer research and treatment journey.
In our interview Lindsey answers questions such as:
"What do you advise to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer?"
"What are your recommended resources for people with cancer?"
"Where can I find more information?"
You can also reach out to Lindsey directly at CancerResearchBridge@gmail.com - she welcomes all communications about needing advice and/or sharing feedback!
Enjoy the interview!
3:11 How she got into cancer: started in undergrad; was pre-med concentrating in bio and music; got to go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to work with a surgeon. Found that what they found in the lab dictated what they did in surgery. Dr. Andrew Davidoff – she worked with; helped her decide on cancer biology research. Lives near MD Anderson and they have excellent graduate school. Started in pediatric cancer research but realized she loved cancer genetics and ended up in a lab there.
5:47 Her personal connection to cancer: many friends, friends of friends dealt with cancer throughout her life. Her grandfather was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a couple of years ago and she was working in a position in the graduate school where she graduated when he was diagnosed. He was undiagnosed for years; it had spread throughout his body and he passed within a month. She helped her grandparents navigate the process and asked their care team questions and translated the terms to her grandparents. “Granddaddy, do you have any questions?” “Sugar, I don’t even know what questions to ask, ask them for me.” That’s why she got her PhD – you don’t know what questions to ask unless you have the background. Where is the education lacking? That was a hard blessing that started all of this. Has since been working with close friends and their loved ones coaching them at their doctor’s appointments. A lot of times you’re not able to process or advocate for yourself. An advocacy program to translate those things. Think of the things you need to ask so there’s dignity in your care and choice. Has been on her heart that she’s been working on to provide resources for them.
11:22 There are some things on the research database – she’s taking all kinds of treatment articles, scientific articles about specific types of cancer within conventional and alternative space – critically assessing them for how they fall in terms of toxicity, safety, efficacy, what’s been done. Do we know if this is helpful? Are there any side effects? The ability to go through and translate them into plain English. Searches clinical trials with their specific treatments – age, specific to diagnosis.
13:11 Patient education materials – videos, summaries to take to care provider to educate them on a particular treatment. Writes for conventional but there’s more information out there; so focusing more on integrative and alternative treatments. Put it into scientific terms so a doctor looking at it can discuss it with you. Students have done an excellent job working on it in her area. Hopes to be a benefit to cancer patients. Gives huge props to the students she works with. The more the merrier! The army of students they’re developing is what they hope will do a lot for cancer patients. Students are hungry for these types of opportunities. What it’s like to work in this field and helping them in their knowledge base and communicate effectively for the greater good.
15:35 There’s a need for a “bridge” - the dark side – standards of looking at the data. From the alternative side it’s difficult to have conversations about the research because there’s no interpreter between conventional and alternative. Has been working on building that bridge. Many colleagues are open to having collaborations with an alternative medicine sphere. We have to have the kind of measurements and design in place to effect greater change within the medical community. Many people think there is not openness on the conventional side. There are departments working on very unique areas. Curcumin, yoga, meditation, mistletoe – areas fully funded by MD Anderson.
Working with clinics – designing some things from the ground up, collaborating on those things.
Exciting to utilize her training in this way.
19:37 A lot of our motivation is exactly the same – where do we have the commonalities? Having respect for what each side contributes is really rewarding, even if we don’t agree on every point. There are still areas where we can join forces and have a bigger impact. To let others see the options for care. We’re not an island scientifically. She’s had 10+ individuals she’s collaborated with even just as a student. We do ourselves a great disservice if we don’t explore these options. You never arrive, there’s always something someone can teach you. If you’re not open to receive that then that’s a disservice to yourself. She learns every day from everyone. The clinics she works with are seeing this. It’s a level of trust. It’s who you know – the connections are important. Respect for what’s being done, the ability to work tirelessly for the patients is something they can get on board with. Unfortunate times have brought about fortunate events. Training is pivotal; opening minds to different perspectives, pushing to think through different problems. Students love to hate the way she’s working with them. She answers their questions with questions. They can answer part of the question that will lead them down the path. If they’re pushed, encouraged in that area they’re very good at that. “This is really refreshing because no one has ever pushed us to think outside the box.” You have to have a thirst for truth, how do you understand different perspectives in a conversation that’s helpful? When you train people to think about how to assess a different problem then you set up a collaboration to see different viewpoints. The students are the duplicates, the hope for the next generation. Her hope is to work with students and build more bridges so it multiplies.
27:10 How do you advise someone who is just diagnosed with cancer?
A: Some people want to know every option, some people don’t. Take a moment to let yourself process and have the emotions that come along and ask what is going to be healthy for me? Do I have friends, family who will help me research? What does my team look like? Body, mind, spirit are part of whatever treatment or regimen… Make sure you know the sources that you’re consulting. If there’s any question where particular viewpoints are coming from, don’t be afraid to dig and don’t take them at face value no matter what organization is. You ought to know… even though it’s from someone you know, trust or like, make sure the points are based on evidence not their reputation.
Ask questions that are safe for you. How will it affect you physically, mentally, spiritually – if your provider isn’t willing to talk to you about it then maybe you need to talk to someone else about it. Soem institutes make the person advocate for themselves in the integrative work. Then you want an advocate working with you. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. Resources are out there. It does require digging. It’s her hope that more institutions will offer resource packages when you come for an initial visit. Thinking through who you are, how the diagnosis is affecting you, and if there are areas where you need someone to come alongside who is going to be the best person to do that and who is your care team? Ask the right questions. If questions are a problem then there’s probably a problem with the person you’re talking to. If my questions aren’t welcome then maybe I need to work with others where my questions are welcome. This is your life, it may be years of your life. If you don’t feel comfortable then that’s an area where I’d say find someone who will work with you. Just because there are letters behind someone’s name, it doesn’t mean they know everything about every subject. Some of her colleagues approach their patients in this way that they’re the authority on every subject. She respectfully disagrees. We can’t know it all. If there’s not that openness, then that’s something that she always cautions people about. Make sure you feel that the person you’re working with, they’d treat their close family the way they’re treating you. It’s not enough to know that something has been done before, because everyone is different. We are so vastly different in our genetic and sensitivities and in the way our cancers operate genetically. When you have someone who tries to standardize the way you’re treated. Conventionally it’s completely changed. It’s very much personalized now, based on what we know. But there are still those who say we will always treat this the same way. Have an advocate in your corner who will ask these questions, those that will be uncomfortable for yourself and others. Sometimes we want to hear things and we can try to make things sound that way. Push yourself to understand it. It helps you get a better picture of how to proceed. From looking at how she’s worked with patients, that tends to be part of the issue. 1) Understand the questions to ask. 2) Fear can keep you from asking the right questions. 3) Have people who will help you navigate around that and help you with that.
37:50 One other thing that’s exciting is the ability to work with clinics on drilling down what are the drivers in the kinds of cancer they’re seeing and what their treatments are doing to the cancer at the molecular level (the bioinformatics). A lot of times it’s hard for them to understand exactly what’s going on in a person’s cancer. They have the ability to understand what’s going on in the person and there are agents that can address those areas. Specifically use treatments for that person, in integrative clinics. That involves a lot of collaborations and connections in that area. That’s another project, that they’re working to really understand, and it gives the opportunity to share, the work that’s being done, help that’s being provided and has not been highlighted in this way before and give credence to what’s being done. When we look at quality of life we even have survival rates but we can say someone has the same type of cancer and the same type of pathway being disrupted. That has not been done before and it’s really exciting that they’re working on.
41:05 Q: Remission – is that the same in both conventional and alternative?
A: It depends – there are so many different types of cancers, stages and therapies out there. Trying to compare the two and remission/survival rates, this is where the questions come in. Unless you’re in a controlled study treated with an alternative or conventional medicine, you’re not going to have a good idea of comparing apples to apples. That’s where those leading questions come in. There’s a particular study coming out of Australia a couple of years ago that speaks about comparing the two sectors; there’s not this drilling down of details to explain what kind of cancers are we comparing between treatments and regimens. Those kinds of studies can give us some information but not the kind that’s a study where we’ve designed specifically for that. We don’t have a good solid picture of comparison rates because we’ve never worked in collaboration in that situation, specifically apples to apples. That’s why relationships are really important. Alongside these studies we’re going to compare. Important to think 5, 10 year remission. We see 6 months in a lot of different sectors. It’s a complicated area. Being able to think of these key factors… It’s an area on her radar. The clinics she’s working with have survival data but there are holes in their data, so she can educate them and tell them where they need to fill in the gaps to be able to compare to conventional. Sometimes you have patients who have already had a full spectrum of treatments before they get into alternative medicine. Hard to determine what worked. Sometimes when you have a treatment, it takes 6 months or so for you to see a development and regression of a disease. If you take another overlapping treatment at that time, you don’t know what really worked. Look at what’s being compared. If you can make the one to one comparisons. Unless you specifically set out with a design where these factors are studied. Need apples to apples to compare remission rates. It’s super complicated which is unfortunate, but on the plus side we can say that all these treatments and there’s a positive outcome – we can try to understand the genetics of it, etc.
She’s a glass half full kind of gal. It’s just not helpful to be the other way; that’s the way she chooses to look at it.
48:05 Q: Have you looked into Jane McLelland’s research much yet?
A: Sometimes you’ll see certain cancers that are known for upregulation of vasculature – you’d want to maybe add medications that interact with that process; there are "anti-inflammatories" [treatments] that can interfere with that.
50:05 What recommended resources do you have that people go to?
A: She can connect different people. It depends on your particular issue and where you want to go; not to complicate but it has to be very personal and what you’re looking for specifically. It’s about what you’re comfortable with and what you like, in order to point you in a particular direction. As things are becoming available she can share those. Working with someone like Bailey or herself – then we can provide resources in that area. She looks at the research but not everyone has her expertise. The tools she’s developing, they’re going to be launching hopefully at the end of October and she’ll be able to share that. There will be more than just her set of eyes. As much as she’s worked on being unbiased but she’s human and can always look at things from her perspective; working with people who have similar training and seeing if they agree in her expertise on these areas. If you’re going on your own, look to see if there’s more than one person sharing this insight, with the correct expertise. We can all learn so much from each other but when you have to get down to the details to how these work, the difference between studies, etc. you have to have people go as a committee behind each other and vet the resources, it gives them confidence.
54:28 Q: How can people get in touch with her?
A: CancerResearchBridge@gmail.com Can reach out there, welcomes conversations, discussions and is all about sharing resources and making connections, what gets her up in the morning.
55:28 Q: How to pray for her?
A: Wants to do the best she can for the patients and community, that they would have students who want to learn and who will work well on the different projects; to be able to have fantastic collaborations to get much needed information out there that will really have impact. That the right people will find each other and be able to work together and have the right priorities on the right projects; a lot of decisions are being made – the most productive. How to interact with cancer patients and their families, to create the best resources for them. Have talked about surveys, utilizing social media on certain topics. Wants weigh-in. Resources may be great but need to be in real time to provide the services that are needed. Needs to zero in on that area. There are so many topics. Would really welcome weigh-in! Here's our interview! https://youtu.be/aP3-3GRBYM8
As a bonus for you, I've also created a document as a reference for you with 5 Questions to ask your doctor when discussing your treatment options. It's available there as a detailed graphic or as a plain text document. You'll see what I mean when you click on them. :)