Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on February 21st, 2020

February 21, 2020
Conor Killmurray

From the first child born to a patient with cancer from an egg matured in a lab to women with breast cancer taking to the runway for New York Fashion Week, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.

Fertility doctors in France announced the first child born to a patient with cancer from an immature egg that was matured in a laboratory, frozen, thawed and fertilized five years later, according to their letter in the Annals of Oncology.

The letter described the birth of the baby boy to a 34-year-old French woman who was infertile due to chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer five years earlier.

Prior to her chemotherapy, doctors removed seven immature eggs and used in vitro maturation to allow them to develop in the laboratory. Then the doctors rapidly froze the eggs through the process of vitrification, which avoids the formation of ice crystals around the cells.

If doctors had used hormones to stimulate the woman’s ovaries, they ran the risk of her breast cancer recurring, and that led to the decision to use the frozen eggs, one of which resulted in a successful pregnancy.

After beating cancer, 10-year-old Carter Beckhard-Suozzi was given the chance to meet another survivor with whom he shares a name — President Jimmy Carter.

The two met at The Carter Center in Atlanta and exchanged a hug as soon as they saw each other. Carter had received a diagnosis of Burkitt’s lymphoma in 2015 and underwent five months of chemotherapy and surgeries before being told he had beaten the cancer. During this time, the boy was visited in the hospital by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but it wasn’t until much later that he revealed he wanted to meet the former president.

“He said, ‘Mom, I figured it out. I want to meet President Jimmy Carter,’” Carter’s mother explained in an interview. “When I asked why, he said, ‘We have three things in common. We have the same name. We both have survived cancer and we both love helping people.’”

Carter and President Jimmy Carter, a survivor of melanoma, talked for over a half hour about their journeys with cancer and the president’s experiences in the White House. In a statement released by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the former president called the visit "wonderful."

A woman with breast cancer claims she felt compelled to expose her chest to her supervisor and co-workers to prove her illness amid rumors that she wasn’t really sick.

The woman shared her story on the legal advice section of Reddit, saying she had breast cancer about a year and a half ago, underwent surgery and took time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

"They have been spreading rumors that because I came back to work so soon that I didn’t have breast cancer,” she explained in her post. “I wear a prosthetic at work, so no one sees me flat. They are saying everyone they know with any cancer always has to take a lot of time off work and I seem fine."

The situation reached a boiling point when her co-workers said she didn’t deserve an upcoming raise, so she went over to them and lifted up her shirt, revealing the prosthetic bra and scars on her chest.

According to her post, the next week her co-workers acted as if everything was normal, but she was afraid of retaliation from the human resources department for the way she had confronted them. However, readers of the post reassured her.

"It's not right for a cancer patient to be bullied and harassed like that and your managers should've taken care of it before you even had to," one person responded.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its first bilateral enforcement operation with the government of India that stopped approximately 500 shipments of unapproved prescription drugs and combination medical devices from reaching American consumers.

Operation Broadsword” targeted packages entering the United States through an International Mail Facility (IMF) in January. As part of the effort, officials from both governments examined more than 800 shipments that included medications intended to treat or mitigate serious diseases, such as cancer. The illicit medications, ordered by online by American consumers through illegal pharmaceutical sites, were potentially dangerous, according to the FDA.

The shipments were sent through third-party countries to the mail facility to avoid detection and were not expected by sellers or buyers to go through the rigorous standards of testing put in place by the FDA.

In 2019 alone, the agency detained more than 38,000 products from IMF facilities and expects to destroy more than 17,000 of these products. It also plans to destroy the products seized in Operation Broadsword.

An Illinois survivor took to the runway during New York Fashion Week earlier this month to raise awareness for metastatic breast cancer and clothing that works for women who have undergone mastectomies.

Katie Bertsche was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and underwent a double mastectomy along with chemotherapy and radiation. In 2015, she learned that the cancer had spread to her bones, and she is currently fighting her third recurrence.

During New York Fashion Week, Bertsche and 30 other women touched by breast cancer modeled apparel from AnaOno Intimates, a clothing line for women who have undergone mastectomies. The fashion show also raised funds for METAvivor, a patient advocacy group that contributes to research into stage 4 breast cancer.

“Just because you have breast cancer and lose part of your body doesn’t mean you’re any less sexy or beautiful or womanly than the girl next door,” Bertsche said.

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