Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on February 28, 2020


From New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announcing he will undergo surgery to remove a potentially cancerous tumor on his kidney to an NHL team granting a 15-year-old fan with cancer the ultimate wish, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced he has a, likely, cancerous tumor on his left kidney that is set to be surgically removed next month.

Murphy, 62, learned of the three-centimeter tumor during a checkup. Murphy is scheduled to undergo a partial nephrectomy at a hospital in New York City in March, where he will remain for a week.

The Governor will then rest and gradually return to work full time, according to a spokesperson. Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver will serve as acting governor while Murphy is in the hospital.

Governor Murphy took to Twitter to describe his prognosis as “very good” and stated he is “profoundly grateful to my doctors for detecting the tumor early.” Governor Murphy’s doctor believes the tumor is fully treatable due to it being discovered early, and he will most likely not have to undergo any radiation or chemotherapy.

A college student had learned she was positive for the BRCA2 gene and underwent a double mastectomy, and is now a lead researcher on a breast cancer risk study.

Caroline Breit, a third-year medical student at Kansas University School of Medicine-Wichita, decided to undergo genetic testing at the age of 22 to determine whether she carried the BRCA gene after her sister tested positive for it, and then finding out her father also carried the gene. The family did not have a previous history of breast cancer.

“I didn’t fully register the impact of having surgery,” explained Breit. “It’s hard when you’re a young woman to think about changing your body forever. It was hard for me because sometimes we can be self-conscious about our bodies.”

Breit has one year of medical school left and is hoping to work in breast cancer research as well as perform breast surgery, helping other young women in need. She also recently completed research that aimed to calculate the breast cancer risk in women who don’t have a genetic mutation but had a family history of breast cancer. Breit’s research found that 51% of the women studied were still considered high risk and it would be beneficial to have regular screenings and checkups even if they tested negative for the BRCA gene.

Beth Heide, an educator in Kansas City and face of a national cancer campaign, has died following a battle with colon cancer.

Heide was selected as an ambassador to the Fight Colorectal Cancer advocacy group in March 2019, after her story made it to the national spotlight for continuing her education work and advocating for people to get a colonoscopy.

Heide, who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2017, began her career in the Center School District in 1996 as a social studies teacher and volleyball coach. She rose to the role of principal of Center High School in 2010 and had most recently served as the Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services in the Liberty School District.

"We can't express the inspiration [Heide] provided all of us over the course of the past two years as she battled her illness,” Liberty Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Tucker said in a statement to Facebook. “She refused to be deterred and continued to serve in her role to make a positive impact on our district."

After being displaced by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 nine-year-old Keyonte and his family were already facing an uphill financial battle, then Keyonte was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Keyonte’s mother, Reyna Harris, described her son as outgoing prior to being displaced by mold damage from the storm in 2017, but then he began to shut down and eventually complained about pains in his stomach.

An emergency room trip resulted in Keyonte’s diagnosis, and he had to undergo chemotherapy and surgery, then the cancer returned to his lungs.

The resulting diagnosis and treatment were financially devastating for the family after being displaced by the storm. Keyonte’s father had to quit his job in order to get his son to his appointments, and their Medicaid insurance did not cover all of his prescriptions.

The family is one of many now working with Family Reach, an organization that provides patients with cancer and their families with financial assistance and planning, through direct funding from Direct Relief who have begun to work with patients with cancer affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Keyonte is scheduled for a full body scan later this month to determine if the cancer has spread anywhere else.

The Philadelphia Flyers announced plans to grant 15-year old Blake Steigauf his ultimate wish, by signing him to a one-day contract with the team and letting him suit up for game night.

Steigauf was diagnosed with cancer on April 24th, 2019, and currently plays for his high school hockey team. As a longtime Flyers fan, his wish was to get the full experience of being on a professional team and to meet the team’s mascot Gritty, his favorite player Claude Giroux, and get some time on the ice with the rest of the team.

Working with Make-A-Wish® Philadelphia, Delaware & Susquehanna Valley, the Flyers also surprised Steigauf with two days of professional player-level treatment at a practice and tickets to a home game.

On game day, Steigauf will enter the arena through the team entrance and line up with them in the tunnel, getting the chance to take a solo skate around the ice before watching warmups from the bench. The team’s head coach, Alain Vigneault, also has requested for Steigauf to present the night’s starting lineup and stand side by side with the starters during the national anthem.

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