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Ryann meets Dr. David Agus
Oncologist

Ryann meets Dr. David Agus | Kidspiration

Do you spend lots and lots of hours texting on your phone or playing video games? Sitting for long periods of time may be as bad for your body as smoking cigarettes, says Dr. David Agus.

Dr. Agus has a lot to share about health and wellness and how our bodies work.  He’s an oncologist, a doctor who treats people with cancer. Dr. Agus is also a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California and has helped develop new drugs and diagnostic tools. As an oncologist, he studies how the environment and the way we live — like eating junk food and getting very little exercise — can contribute to the growth of different cancers. Collecting data on how our bodies act and react will give him and other researchers important information needed for new treatments, and practical ways for us to live healthy, cancer-free lives.



Ryann:
Hey. I’m Ryann and today I’m speaking with Dr. David Agus. Dr. Agus specializes in cancer treatment and prevention. Today, we’re at the University of Southern California where I’m hoping to find what he’s up to and get some advice on how to live a healthy life. Let’s go meet him.

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Ryann:
Hello. My name is Ryann. It’s nice to meet you.

Dr. Agus:
Ryann, it’s great to meet you and thank you so much for coming to sunny Los Angeles.

Ryann:
I know that what you study, you study cures for cancer, right?

Dr. Agus:
Right.

Ryann:
So I know that’s called an oncologist, correct?

Dr. Agus:
Mm hm.

Ryann:
So what’s the importance of the job of oncologists and what do you do?

Dr. Agus:
Well, I try to make people live longer and better, so it’s a privilege in that regard. I don’t always win. This morning I got a call at 5:00 AM that a patient of mine had passed away from this horrible disease we call cancer. But I was able to make him live longer and better, and that’s my goal is to be a quarterback and try to push as much as we can to make a difference.

Ryann:
Do you think there’s ever going to be a cure of cancer in my lifetime or yours?

Dr. Agus:
The answer is probably no. I’m not trying to be a downer or negative, but I think we’re going to make it a chronic disease. In a sense, a tie. So if I told you you had diabetes, you wouldn’t be like oh my gosh, I’m going to die tomorrow. You’d say listen, I take some medicine, I change my life, so I’m going to live with the disease. I want to make cancer something you can live with. I know this is going to sound weird but to me cancer is a verb and not a noun. You’re cancering. You don’t have cancer. It’s not something the body gets. It’s something the body does. So if I want to change cancer in you, I’m going to change you instead of giving you these toxic drugs to treat the cancer. So that’s a new way of thinking.

I’m going to tell you about a clinical trial. So a clinical trial is when we give a drug to one group of patients and then the others we give what we call standard therapy and see what happens.

Ryann:
Experimenting.

Dr. Agus:
Experimenting, yes. So we did this with women with early breast cancer and half of them we gave them a drug that builds bone that was meant for women with low bone densities, and half we gave placebos because we normally just wait for the cancer to recur. And in that case, the people who got the drug for their bone, many few of them recurred. So almost half the recurrences. Why? Because breast cancer goes to bone. So if you change the soil, the seed doesn’t grow.

So one of the great events of cancer wasn’t a drug that even touched the cancer. It changed the soil so the seed didn’t want to grow. And that’s a whole new way of thinking. It’s an engineer’s approach, if you will, to thinking about cancer.

Ryann:
I also know that you’re an engineer, right?

Dr. Agus:
Yes.

Ryann:
So what kind of things do you do in that community?

Dr. Agus:
Well, we design technologies and devices that can help people with disease. So for example, I helped develop one of the first tests where you spit into a tube, we look at the DNA, your DNA, and we say what diseases can happen in your lifetime. Because knowledge is power and knowing what could happen – not what will happen but what could – hopefully makes people change what they do, do the right thing, work on prevention and really focus to live a long and healthy life.

You know, it’s hard. How do I tell you and say listen, I want you to do something today that’s going to help you in 30 years. You’d roll your eyes at me. So it’s really hard in health to get people to change behavior today to help for tomorrow.

Ryann:
I want to talk about being healthy because me as a kid and other children, we love eating things like hamburgers and hot dogs and chicken nuggets.

Dr. Agus:
What?

Ryann:
And bacon especially.

Dr. Agus:
[joking] What?!

Ryann:
But I know that sometimes if you eat those foods a lot, like on a regular basis, it can’t be good for your body. So how often can we eat those foods?

Dr. Agus:
You know, when I was a kid my parents always said moderation, moderation, moderation. And I rolled my eyes at them. But they were right.

So what we know is up to three servings a week of meet, no problem at all. What we know is you start to have more, it becomes an issue. But the key is moderation. It’s some of everything. It really is saying listen, I had meat last night. Let me have fish tonight. Or let me have something dairy or some pizza tonight. Let’s alter things so we have a little bit of everything.

Ryann:
So what are some healthy snacks that you like to eat?

Dr. Agus:
Well, the key is, and I’m glad you brought this up, it’s not just what you eat; it’s when you eat. So the body loves regularity. So you want to eat around the same time every day. You can eat your breakfast, your lunch. If you want a snack, try to have it around the same time every day and, as much as possible, make it have some protein, some fat and a little bit of carbohydrates. Don’t have carbohydrates only. Don’t have a candy bar as a snack. But try to have maybe a hardboiled egg as a snack. Try to have some yogurt as a snack. Try to do something a little bit healthier. But as much as possible, eat the same time every day. Don’t graze. That is go eat whenever you’re hungry and grab something. Try and stick to the times.

Ryann:
I just want to ask you what is your best advice to kids.

Dr. Agus:
I’m going to tell you something that doesn’t make a lot of sense but trust me, it does. It’s easy in life to get focused on something. Right? I want to be a doctor so I want to focus only on biology. The challenge is identify what you’re not good at and work at that, too. And so if you become well rounded, that’s how you’re going to be successful. So it’s easy to do what you’re good at, but focus also on what you’re not good at to really go to that next level and make a difference.

Ryann:
Well, it was nice speaking to you, Dr. Agus. It was nice meeting you.

Dr. Agus:
Oh, it was great to meet you. And thank you for doing this. I love what you’re doing and I love the passion you have for curiosity and making a difference. Keep going.

Ryann:
Yes, sir. Thank you.

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Ryann:
I loved speaking to Dr. David Agus. I learned much more about his experiences and what he does being a doctor. And I may be even convinced to become a doctor when I grow up. See you next time!