Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on October 18, 2019

From a chemotherapy drug shortage to Eddie Van Halen revealing a cancer diagnosis, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED October 18, 2019
Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster had died. He passed away in his Los Angeles home late last week after battling brain cancer, according to his publicist.

Forster’s career in film began in 1967 with “Reflections in a Golden Eye.” In 1997, he starred in “Jackie Brown” where he played a bail bondsman earning him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

His latest role was in in “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which was recently released on Netflix. Forster was 78.

Rocker Eddie Van Halen revealed that he has throat cancer. He has been battling the disease for several years and, according to reports, is traveling back and forth from the United States to Germany for treatment.

The 64-year-old believes he got cancer from holding his metal guitar pick in his mouth. However, some doctors are refuting that claim.

In 2000, he was treated for tongue cancer and doctors removed a third of his tongue.

The Children’s Oncology Group and parents around the country are calling for action as a critical chemotherapy drug used to treat many pediatric cancers is running low. Vincristine, an injectable medication, is used to treat 80% of the 19,000 children and adolescents who receive a cancer diagnosis each year, according to statistics published in the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In July, Pfizer became the main supplier of the drug, but production has been affected from manufacturing problems, which has triggered the shortage. Deliveries should resume in late October, but shortages will likely persist through December, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The Children’s Oncology Group is urging those in the community to establish a national stockpile of pediatric cancer drugs or allow the federal government to become a guaranteed, contracted buyer.

Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and early investor in Facebook, has helped launch a new precision immunotherapy company. ArenselBio launched with $85 million in funding on Thursday and plans to use machine-learning to discover new gene pathways to fight cancer, according to Forbes. With this knowledge, the company hopes to use CRISPR, gene editing technology, to create immune cells that are better at fighting solid tumors.

The company hopes to present some of its work in the coming months but said they may still be a few years away from introducing the first product into human trials.

A mother who received a breast cancer diagnosis in her first trimester of her pregnancy gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Jade Devis underwent surgery and chemotherapy to treat stage 2 triple-negative breast cancer — a rare form of the disease — after finding a lump on her breast in March. Bradley, her “miracle child,” was born in July.

Devis responded very well to treatment and will finish her final round of infusion therapy in November.

“It is surreal to remember that my pregnancy had an element of extraordinary fear,” Devis said in an interview with KTLA. “I am blessed when I look at my son, and I cannot ask for more than that.”
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