Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on June 12, 2020

June 12, 2020
Conor Killmurray

Advocacy Groups | <b>Leukemia & Lymphoma Society</b>

From the American Cancer Society laying off 1,000 employees due to the economic impact of COVID-19 to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announcing his cancer is in remission after receiving an experimental treatment, here’s what’s making the headlines in the cancer space this week.

As a result of the economic impact associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Cancer Society has announced a significant round of layoffs.

"The pandemic has severely reduced our fundraising revenue and forced us to take significant cost-saving measures,” the non-profit organization explained in a statement. “ACS is reducing its overall budget by approximately 30 percent, with cuts to both non-personnel and personnel expenses. Unfortunately, this included eliminating approximately 1,000 staff positions nationwide," the statement said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to either cancel or transition their major fundraising events to be held virtually. In the American Cancer Society’s case, its annual “Relay For Life” event, which is usually held across 2,500 locations within the United States, was moved to an online format. This has, in part, lead to the American Cancer Society expecting a minimum of $200 million shortfall in comparison to their targeted projections.

Executive salaries have been reduced between 10 to 20% and CEO Gary Reedy has elected to take a 25% reduction in salary. As the pandemic continues to unfold, the organization believes that it may have to reduce its research work by 50%.

Lupin Pharmaceuticals has announced they will voluntarily recall Metformin Hydrochloride Extended-Release Tablets USP (the generic version of Fortamet) after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked for companies to recall metformin due to its cancer risks.

The FDA had previously announced that metformin, a drug used for treating patients with type 2 diabetes, has traces of NDMA, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen. The FDA then asked companies with this agent in their therapeutics to voluntarily recall them and inform patients who are receiving them.

“Patients taking Metformin Hydrochloride Extended-Release Tablets, USP 500 mg, are advised to continue taking their medication and contact their pharmacist, physician, or medical provider for advice regarding an alternative treatment,” the company said in a statement. “According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, it could be dangerous for patients with this serious condition to stop taking their metformin without first talking to their health care professionals.”

To date, Lupin Pharmaceuticals has not reported any patient on this agent with adverse events related to the FDA’s recall.

The western and central New York chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society (LLS) announced they have raised $124,000 for cancer research through their virtual “Student of The Year” campaign.

The “Student of The Year” campaign was pushed through by 17 high school students by participating in a 2-week long philanthropic leadership program to help students foster skills that would allow them to manage and raise funds for LLS. Students involved in the campaign would then raise money for local patient heroes battling blood cancer or in remission.

“We’re honored to be named the Western & Central New York Chapter’s local ‘Students of the Year,’” Charlotte Greene said in a statement. Charlotte and her twin sister Cutler raised the most funds of any students with $28,000. “Our mission was not only to raise the most money, but also to bring attention to blood cancers like leukemia, which is the most common form of cancer in children and teens. Since the early 1960s, five-year survival rates for many blood cancer patients have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled — we hope to help LLS continue improving on these results!”

Two years after his cancer diagnosis, former Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev) announced he is now cancer free.

Last summer, Senator Rid did not disclose that the pancreatic cancer he was receiving treatment for was close to beating him. But after undergoing an experimental treatment, Reid is now in complete remission. He is back to doing therapy workouts four times a week and his hair has begun to grow back. The senator has said that there is no comparison to what he felt like last year, “I feel good. I’m alive.”

“Consider the senator the first astronaut to the new universe,” said Patrick Soon-Shiong in an interview, a cancer specialist who credits a new drug treatment with saving Reid’s life. The senator was a part of an experimental trial with four other patients, including himself, that looked to use alternative treatments for patients that essentially ran out of options.

The senator will have to continue to keep up the treatments and be monitored, but the treatment is now cleared for a phase 2 trial for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer using the new IV therapy that helped the senator.


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