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People Report | Taylor Swift, Jimmy Carter and Barbara Park
When singer Taylor Swift learned that a young fan would have to miss one of her concerts because she was quarantined in a hospital, battling recently diagnosed acute myelogenous leukemia, the star offered her aid. Swift donated $50,000 to help Naomi Oakes pay her medical expenses.
Swift learned what Oakes was going through when the 11-year-old girl’s father posted an emotional video about her situation on YouTube. He said Oakes has chosen Swift’s song “Bad Blood” as her personal fight song and was disappointed about missing the Aug. 18 concert in Phoenix, Ariz., to which she had received tickets as a Christmas present.
He added that he would appreciate Swift using social media to spread the word about the family’s efforts to raise money for medical expenses. Swift did better than that, giving $50,000 to a GoFundMe account the Oakes family had set up to collect donated funds. The donation exceeded the $30,000 the family had set out to raise.
Along with her donation, Swift posted a note: “To the beautiful and brave Naomi, I’m sorry you have to miss it, but there will always be more concerts. Let’s focus on getting you feeling better. I’m sending the biggest hugs to you and your family.”
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter
provided an update on his health in an Aug. 20 press conference, announcing that he has melanoma.
Four small spots of the disease — about 2 mm in size — were found on his brain, Carter, 90, said. He said his first radiation treatment would take place that afternoon.
Additionally, Carter said he would undergo treatment with the immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab). Keytruda is an antibody designed to disable the protein PD-1 so it cannot do its job of keeping the immune system in check; this allows T cells to become more active in recognizing and fighting cancer cells. The agent is currently approved for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following Yervoy (ipilimumab) and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. Carter will receive an intravenous infusion of the agent every three weeks.
, the author of a well-known series of books for young readers about the character Junie B. Jones, has died of ovarian cancer. She was 66.
More than 55 million copies of the nearly 30 books in the series have been sold in North America, and translations are available in about 12 languages, according to a report in the New York Times. The first in the series, published in 1992, is titled “June B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus.” The most recent, published last year, is titled “Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff).”
According to the report, Park described the irreverent title character of her books as “a wild child, who … had not yet mastered the Queen’s English.”
The Place to Be | Wheelchairs are No Barrier when Visiting These Travel Destinations
Many changes can come with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and for some, that can mean using a wheelchair. But according to a new guidebook, accommodating a wheelchair doesn’t necessarily mean staying close to home.
The e-book Discovering: An Accessible US Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users
, which is free for people with disabilities, shares accessible travel suggestions submitted by those who have, literally, been there.
The book was published by Wheel:Life, an online community for wheelchair users. The travel suggestions were crowdsourced by the Get Out & Enjoy Life program, an educational initiative run by Wheel:Life and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Over 100 pages long, Discovering
lists accessible travel destinations and family fun spots across the nation. The book is designed to be helpful to anyone with a mobility challenge.
“Wheel:Life has prepared this travel guide to assist people who use wheelchairs with new and exciting ways to explore their world,” author Lisa Wells says. “We are thrilled to provide practical advice by offering handy travel tips, family-friendly destinations and travel pictures shared by wheelchair users.”
Available for download at Amazon’s Kindle bookstore
, the book retails for $1.99; proceeds will fund Wheel:Life programs. Anyone with a disability can get a free copy of the book
Childhood Cancer | Survivors of Childhood Cancers are Living Longer Due to Treatment Advances
Better treatment and follow-up are being credited with a reduction in the likelihood that survivors of childhood cancers will later die of illnesses caused by their therapy, such as new malignancies or cardiac or lung disease. The improvement over the past 30 years is due, in part, to the reduced use of radiation therapy and anthracyclines, a type of chemotherapy.
The findings came from an analysis of more than 34,000 participants in the federally funded Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which found that, among those who have survived at least five years, all-cause mortality at 15 years after diagnosis has dropped from 12.4 percent to 6 percent.
The results were announced May 31 during the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a gathering of nearly 30,000 oncology professionals in Chicago.
“To go back to the 1960s, less than 30 to 40 percent of children would survive cancer; currently, over 83 percent of children (with the disease) will become five-year survivors. It’s estimated that, at 2013, there were over 400,000 survivors in the population, and that by 2020 there will be over half a million,” said lead study author Gregory T. Armstrong, a pediatric oncologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “However, these five-year survivors are still at risk for late effects and late mortality. Thus, strategies to reduce late effects by reducing treatment intensity have been used for several decades in an attempt to lower mortality rates and improve quality of life.”
Deaths from subsequent cancers in fiveyear survivors dropped in frequency from 1.8 percent in the early 1970s to 1 percent in the early 1990s; deaths from cardiac late effects from 0.5 percent to 0.1 percent in those same time periods, respectively; and deaths from pulmonary late effects from 0.4 percent to 0.1 percent, he pointed out.
The improvement was most prevalent among survivors of Wilms tumor, Hodgkin lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Cardiac deaths significantly decreased among survivors of all three cancers, and deaths due to secondary cancer decreased among Wilms tumor survivors only. In ALL, deaths at 15 years after diagnosis due to late effects were reduced from 2.8 percent in the 1970s to 1.9 percent in the 1990s; in Hodgkin lymphoma, they dropped from 4.2 percent to 2.1 percent in those time periods, respectively; and in Wilms tumor, they dropped from 2.2 percent to 0.4 percent in those periods, Armstrong said.
Doctors have driven these results by gradually refining treatment through reductions in the intensity of therapy for many pediatric cancers, even as the effectiveness of treatment has risen, Armstrong said. For example, in the 1970s, 86 percent of patients with ALL received cranial radiotherapy, compared to only 22 percent in the 1990s, he and co-authors wrote. Radiotherapy rates have also been reduced among patients with Hodgkin lymphoma (from 96 percent to 77 percent) and Wilms tumor (from 77 percent to 49 percent). Furthermore, Armstrong said, patients who develop these three diseases in childhood are now being exposed to less anthracycline, a chemotherapy drug that can cause cardiotoxicity.
Advocacy | Brain Cancer Organization Pushes for Swifter Treatment
There are lots of dreamers in the cancer community, because conceiving a dream is the first step to making change. Dellann Elliott Mydland is one of them.
Mydland is the wife of the late Christopher Stewart Elliott, who lost his battle with brain cancer. And she is founder, president and board chair of the Chris Elliott Fund, which she launched shortly before his death 13 years ago. Her dream is to help patients with brain cancer to move as quickly as possible from diagnosis into treatment, whether that involves an FDA-approved drug offered by a specialist or an experimental agent obtained through a clinical trial. She plans to make it happen by educating those in the brain cancer arena that discussions about treatment must happen as early as possible.
In a column posted on curetoday.com, Mydland describes what her dream, if realized, could achieve: swifter treatment for patients; more heavily enrolled, and as a result more cost-effective, clinical trials; trials that conclude more quickly, paving the way for subsequent studies; and speedier translation of research into approved treatments for patients.
“We will never have an effective treatment for this disease if we continue to get these patients into clinical trials after their brain cancer has returned,” she writes.
Read Mydland’s essay on the topic
, which gives details about how to join or contribute to the effort, and about upcoming conferences focused on brain cancer and its treatments.
Integrative Medicine | Free Program Helps Families and Friends Discuss Cancer and Support Patients
Talking about cancer isn’t easy, but two organizations are prepared to help. CancerCare, a national support organization, and Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals have teamed up to provide an art therapy activity at no cost to families and friends who are affected by cancer. The program has been dubbed Pillow Talk: Conversations About Cancer
care packages feature a pillow that can be personalized with pictures or notes for a patient with cancer, who can then bring it along for support to treatments and doctor’s appointments. The kit also includes supplies for decorating the pillow and suggestions for designs, as well as fact sheets that deal with helping children to understand cancer, finding support resources in the community, advice for caregivers, insights for talking with health care teams, and an outline of programs and services offered by CancerCare.
Pillow Talk care packages feature a pillow that can be personalized with pictures or notes for a patient with cancer. [Photo courtesy of D S Simon Productions]
“Having a creative project to focus on can be a pragmatic, effective way to ground family and friends, adults and children in the cancer diagnosis, helping them to channel their feelings and make these important conversations easier,” says Barbara Tomlinson, chief program officer at CancerCare.
Piloted earlier this year with a limited number of care packages and families, Pillow Talk
will now expand to make 25,000 packages available. They can be ordered through cancercare.org, a site that also offers information about CancerCare’s additional supportive services for patients and caregivers.