Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on March 6, 2020

From “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek giving an update on his cancer journey after reaching the one-year survival mark to how the new coronavirus outbreak in China has impacted cancer care, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.
 
BY Conor Killmurray
PUBLISHED March 06, 2020
Alex Trebek delivered an update on his fight with stage 4 pancreatic cancer after reaching the one-year survival mark and offered hope to his fellow patients.

“There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned and sudden massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on,” Trebek said in a video posted to Twitter. He explained how he was able to push through these moments as it would have been a betrayal to his family and to other patients with cancer that have found inspiration in his battle.

There is only an 18% one-year survival rate for patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and the two-year survival is only 7%, but Trebek plans to keep on fighting.

“If we take it just one day at a time, with a positive attitude, anything is possible,” he said.

Facilities in Wuhan, China, have been strained since the outbreak of COVID-19 began late last year. As many facilities have been converted to deal with the outbreak, patients with cancer are in limbo.

Many patients with cancer are being left to fend for themselves as facilities in Wuhan and surrounding areas have been on lockdown.

Family members of patients with cancer in China have turned to social media to try and find care, posting to sites like Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, sharing stories like that of 19-year old Tian Guanglin. Guanglin had a rare form of muscle cancer and it was recommended that he be transferred to a bigger city hospital, but due to COVID-19, no one would take him.

“We had no way out, we had no choice but to delay his treatment,” said Zhao Huaqing, Guanglin’s mother. “If he had been admitted to a better hospital, then he wouldn’t be dead now.”

During the National University Track and Field Championships in Canada, the University of Alberta’s own Spence Allen looks to break more records, but the three-time cancer survivor is already a winner.

Allen, 26, was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 17 and has gone on to beat the cancer three times. He is now the University of Alberta’s greatest pole vaulter with a record jump of 5.3 meters and is a former national champion but kept his fight with cancer a secret from his teammates until recently and focused on his sport.

"I find myself stressing about some smaller things in life and it takes some time. I have to look at it again and think, ‘Well I was in a very different place a few years ago and it kind of always reminds me to be grateful for what I have and where I'm at,’" Allen said in an interview. He hopes to one day compete in the Olympics, but also give back to those that are sick with a bigger platform.

At the San Diego Zoo, a young koala joey is being given non-stop care after his mother died of cancer late last year.

The Joey, called Omeo, was only five and a half months old when his mother passed and specialists at the zoo had to intervene to save his life, as Omeo was still in his mother’s pouch when she died. Specialists created a fake pouch inside of an incubator to mimic the conditions inside a koloa’s pouch to allow Omeo to develop correctly and fed him six times a day with a special milk replacement.

“We weren’t convinced he would last the first week, but with intensive care, he is showing us he is a fighter,” said Becky Kier, lead neonatal assisted care specialist at theSan Diego Zoo. “While he has a long way to go, our team is doing everything we can for him — and each day, we are more and more optimistic about his chance of survival.”

Omeo has reached the stage where he will soon travel outside of the pouch and caregivers at the zoo are looking to encourage the joey to develop his hand-eye coordination naturally by attaching him to a toy kola in a mini eucalyptus tree, where he stems on his “stand-in-mom”.
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