Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on May 22, 2020

From Johnson & Johnson discontinuing their talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada after numerous lawsuits that cited the talc, a mineral similar to asbestos, caused cancer, to the ramifications of delayed cancer surgeries being felt by patients, here’s everything happening in the cancer space this week.
BY Conor Killmurray
PUBLISHED May 22, 2020
Johnson & Johnson to end the sale of talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada.

Johnson & Johnson said it based its decision on declining consumer interest in their product and “misinformation” around the safety of its product due to the lawsuits that talc causes cancer. These health concerns prompted people to file thousands of lawsuits that talc, a mineral similar to asbestos that is known to cause cancer, caused their cancer.

Sometimes, talc and asbestos are obtained from the same mines. Smaller studies investigating the possible link between talcum powder, what talc is used to make, and cancer have had conflicting results. Moreover, in January, U.S. government-led research found no strong evidence that suggested a link between baby powder and cancer.

Johnson & Johnson defended the safety of its product and said it will still sell the talc-based baby powder on the global market.

Current and former Major League Baseball players are marketing a new game to raise funds for cancer.

Several years ago, multiple Major League Baseball players including Curt Casali, Matt Andriese and Alex Cobb spent an afternoon together on Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles developing a game. The game, called “CupCheck”, involves players throwing discs at poles topped with plastic cups, and then trying to catch the cups one-handed once the cups are knocked free.

“We literally played this game all day on the beach, got absolutely roasted by the sun,” said Casali, a Cincinnati Reds catcher who was with the Tampa Bay Rays at the time, in an interview. “It’s just a great, competitive game.”

Casali and other players are now marketing the game to raise funds for the Cincinnati-based Testicular Cancer Society. People can purchase the equipment for the game online for $59.99. The name of the game is tied into the charity it will benefit as a reference to the protective cup worn by athletes.


Actor Sam Lloyd has died at age 56 after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer a year ago.

Lloyd had appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies but is best known for his role as attorney Ted Buckland in Scrubs. He appeared in 95 episodes of the sitcom during its nine-season run on NBC and ABC. 

“Thinking a lot about Sam Lloyd today. (Ted). Truly such a kind, sweet guy. He will be missed by so many,” Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence said in a tweet. More of his co-stars praised him for being kind and funny, talking about how they will always remember their time with him.

Lloyd was first diagnosed last year with an inoperable brain tumor that was revealed to be metastatic lung cancer that had spread to his liver, spine and jawbone. He is survived by his wife and a newborn child.

Patients with cancer, including the newly diagnosed, are beginning to feel the ramifications of delayed surgeries and postponed visits as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts oncology practices.

A patient with breast cancer received chemotherapy for eight months to reduce her tumor to an operable size, but by the time it was operable and she could get a mastectomy, hospitals were postponing procedures that were considered non-essential. Her mastectomy was one of them.

"It's not necessarily considered a medical emergency by them, even though it's, like, the entire world to me," Silver, who wished to go by her first name only to protect her medical privacy, said in an interview. Silver is not the only patient to experience this as many patients are missing out on treatments that would otherwise be done right away.

"We are paying a price with lives lost — not only from COVID-19 — but from people who need medical care and are afraid to get it or reluctant to go," Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, said in the same interview. Oncologists have had to alter treatments and space out infusion appointments to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, but for patients like Sliver this can mean an increase of their tumor size.

"In the five-week delay, I had gone from three small tumors to a massive, 7- by 3-[centimeter] tumor that was pushing against the skin," Silver explained. Even as hospitals continue to adjust, the unpredictable nature of the virus means delays like this will continue, making Silver’s new goal that this next round of chemotherapy can still shrink the tumor and they can schedule surgery in the fall. However, uncertainty surrounding the next peak of the coronavirus remains.
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