A Walk with Purpose: Memoir of a Bioentrepreneur
Meet Michael D. Becker:
Michael D. Becker, president and founder of MDB Communications LLC, has over 20 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, C-level industry executive, pharmaceutical product developer, Wall Street securities analyst and registered financial advisor. Among Mr. Becker’s leadership positions are president, chief executive officer, chief financial officer, and member of the Board of Directors for several publicly-traded biotechnology companies, including commercial-stage Cytogeny Corporation which distributed Caphosol©, a topical oral agent and prescription medical device for the treatment of oral mucositis and xerostomia.
Mr. Becker plays an active leadership role as an advocate for the biotechnology industry. He is past Chairman and member of the board of trustees with BioNJ, which is New Jersey’s trade association for biotechnology companies, and is currently a member of BioNJ.
He is also a Stage IV head and neck cancer survivor.
“It was the day before Thanksgiving in 2015 when I noticed a 3-centimeter lump on the side of my neck that wasn’t there the day prior. Originally thought to be a blocked salivary gland or other infection, a subsequent biopsy confirmed that I had advanced (Stage IV) oropharyngeal cancer. In plain English, I had head/neck cancer. The disease started in my right tonsil (likely months or years before) and eventually spread to a cervical lymph node below my jaw line.
I was treated with daily radiation to the head/neck for 7-weeks and had three cycles of cisplatin chemotherapy (one at the start, once in the middle, and at the end of the radiation therapy). It was seven weeks of pure hell.
The post-treatment PET scan in June 2016 looked amazing – with no disease anywhere in the head/neck area or elsewhere. Unfortunately, the next PET scan in December 2016 revealed extensive disease confined to both my left and right lung.
I started an experimental immunotherapy at the NIH in early 2017, but so far the results have been mixed and it is not expected that I will live past the end of 2017 unless something dramatic changes.”
Michael has been blogging about his cancer since day one at: My Cancer Journey: Life After Being Diagnosed With Stage IV Head and Neck Cancer
Why did you write this book?
A Walk With Purpose: Memoir of a Bioentrepreneur chronicles my unique career path from an investment advisor to chief executive officer of an oncology-focused biotechnology company, and finally into a terminal cancer patient confronting his own mortality. It is a memoir about both my life and illness, battling stage 4 head and neck cancer.
At the strong suggestion of my supporting and loving wife Lorie, I wrote the book because it wasn’t a “typical” cancer patient memoir. Throughout my life and into the disease, I have remained focused and positive, while still acknowledging the reality of my fate. The unique knowledge I gained while being an executive in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry allowed me to be more involved in my treatment decisions and I wanted other cancer patients to follow in my footsteps by becoming more active in the management and treatment decisions they face as well.
Equally important, I want to raise visibility for HPV-related cancers, such as mine, that today can be prevented with available vaccines that are being underutilized due to fears over the safety of vaccines.
About HPV and The Vaccine
Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, tonsils, salivary glands, throat, and lymph nodes in the neck. Most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose and throat. An estimated 45,780 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx (throat) are expected in 2015.
Incidence rates are more than twice as high in men as in women. The increase among white men is driven by a subset of cancers in the oropharynx, including the base of the tongue and the tonsils, that are associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Each year, in the U.S., about 9,000 people are diagnosed with cancers of the oropharynx that may be caused by HPV. Cancers of the oropharynx are about four times more common in men than women.
Risk factors: HPV infection of the mouth and throat, believed to be transmitted through sexual contact, increases risk. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and about 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.
As a result, the incidence of HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), which is both biologically and clinically distinct from tobacco- and alcohol-related OPSCC, is dramatically increasing. Other known risk factors include tobacco use in any form (smoked and smokeless) and excessive alcohol consumption. Many studies have reported a synergistic relationship between smoking and alcohol that results in a 30-fold increased risk for individuals who both smoke and drink heavily.
How do people get HPV? Only a few studies have looked at how people get oral HPV, and some of these studies show conflicting results. Some studies suggest that oral HPV may be passed on during oral sex (from mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact) or open-mouthed (“French”) kissing, others have not. The likelihood of getting HPV from kissing or having oral sex with someone who has HPV is not known.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2015. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2015.
From HPV-positive towards HPV-driven oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas. Cancer Treat Rev. 2015 Oct 31.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Statistics
As a parent, what do you think of the HPV Vaccine?
HPV infections usually go away by themselves but having an HPV infection can cause certain kinds of cancer to develop. These include cervical cancer in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both women and men. HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). All of these cancers are caused by HPV infections that did not go away. Cancer develops very slowly and may not be diagnosed until years, or even decades, after a person initially gets infected with HPV. Currently, there is no way to know who will have only a temporary HPV infection, and who will develop cancer after getting HPV.
Currently available HPV vaccines can prevent six types of cancer – cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile and head/neck cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of HPV vaccine—rather than the previously recommended three doses—to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose. For more information on the updated recommendations, read the press release: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p1020-hpv-shots.html
Even before I was diagnosed with cancer, my wife and I made the decision to get our two daughters vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. I feel that the decision on whether or not to vaccine children against HPV should be made in consultation with a medical professional.
More Reading and Information:
Actor Michael Douglas Speaks About His Battle With Cancer at the 2014 AHNS and IFHNOS Meeting:
Michael Becker’s social media contact info:
Amazon author page: Michael Becker