May 11, 2016 / All Stories

Striving for the Right Tools to Fight Brain Tumors with Kyle Holen

Working with cancer patients gave this doctor the perspective and drive to work toward giving them the right tools for the fight.

Working with cancer patients gave this doctor the perspective and drive to work toward giving them the right tools for the fight.

Video transcript

Kyle Holen:
We often hear about people saying that they're battling cancer. But that's not a metaphor that I particularly like for patients, because it's not a fair fight.
Patients will succumb to glioblastoma, and they don't have tools to adequately fight back. So if they die, are they losers? Did they lose the battle? None of my patients were losers. You know, they just didn't have the right tools to fight cancer.
One of the cancers that I'm working on is called glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is a devastating disease. People live, on average, about a year and a half after diagnosis. And only about 5 percent of the people who are diagnosed live long term.
When you have a brain tumor, it can change your personality. It can change your ability to move. It can cause seizures. What we've heard from patients and patients' families is that brain tumors take away a sense of self.
I think it's really important for the job that we do to understand the impact that we have on patients. So there have been times in my meetings when I've shown videos of people who have been affected by brain tumors. At the end of the video, I'll say this is why we're doing what we're doing. We're doing it for this person, or we're doing it for the next person that's diagnosed. We're doing it for so-and-so's uncle, or your cousin, or your neighbor. We're not doing this in a vacuum. This has a real effect on people's lives. And we need to remember this effect so we can work harder, work smarter, work faster and make sure that we can get these drugs to these people as quickly as possible.
I was trained as a medical oncologist. I would see patients every day who, unfortunately, I had to tell them that they didn't have much time left and I would come home from clinic and I would just appreciate my walk home because I was able to do that. I would appreciate that I was having dinner with my family because some of my patients could no longer eat. It really gives you a different perspective. It makes you much more appreciative of the things that we have and how quickly things can be taken away.
I think you'll hear from any physician, in the job that we do, that patients always come first. That's why we became physicians, because we wanted to take care of patients. But we can have such a greater impact here at AbbVie because if we bring a new drug to market it can help patients worldwide, as opposed to the 20 or so patients we might see in clinic in one day. That's what drives me and, I think, most of my colleagues. It's the greater impact we can have by working here at AbbVie.

About Glioblastoma Multiforme

  • The most common and most aggressive type of malignant primary brain tumor.
  • Prior to diagnosis, most patients experience a serious symptom such as a seizure.1
  • Patients typically succumb to the disease approximately 15 months after diagnosis.1,2
  • Treatment remains challenging and no long-term treatments are currently available.
  • Standard treatment is surgical resection, radiotherapy and concomitant adjunctive chemotherapy.2

About Kyle Holen

Education and Training
  • Bachelor of Science, Chemistry and Physics, American University
  • Doctor of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Internal Medicine Residency, Presbyterian Hospital
  • Medical Oncology Fellowship, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
1 National Brain Tumor Society website. "Tumor Types." Accessed October 17, 2014.
2 American Brain Tumor Association. (2012) "Glioblastoma and Malignant Astrocytoma." Accessed October 17, 2014.


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