Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on June 26, 2020

June 26, 2020

From the National Cancer Institute launching a nationwide study of patients with cancer who either have COVID-19 or are being tested for it to understand the disease to “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Batman and Robin” director Joel Schumacher passing away from cancer, here’s what’s making the headlines in the cancer space this week.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is launching a long-term, nationwide study to look at the impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer. The study is currently open for enrollment for adult patients with cancer who are undergoing cancer treatment and getting tested for, or have, COVID-19.

The study, called NCI COVID-19 in Cancer Patients Study (NCCAPS), is looking to enroll 2,000 patients across more than 1,000 sites in the United States to track and develop how the disease changes and develops in patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. To track how the disease is responding in patients with cancer, researchers will be pulling blood samples and imaging from COVID-19 tests and treatments that are already being done for patients with cancer.

“There is a lot we don’t know about COVID-19 and cancer. NCCAPS is investigating how COVID-19 affects cancer treatment and outcomes, and vice versa,” NCI said in a statement on the launch of the study. Some of the questions the study hopes to answer include: if COVID-19 changes as cancer grows or spreads, which cancer types are more severely impacted by COVID-19 and how long a patients’ quality of life will be impacted by COVID-19.

Jess and Tanya Halliday’s dream of running the Boston Marathon was put on hold by both the coronavirus postponing the event and Jess’ lung cancer surgery, but that didn’t stop the two from crossing the finish line on their horses.

Jess was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018 but through persistent treatment she was hoping to run the 26.2-mile course along with her sister this year. However, as unforeseeable obstacles came in their way, the two didn’t want to throw their months of training away per se.

“I can’t run right now, but my main career, my passion, my horses can help me do it,” Jess said in an interview after crossing the Boston Marathon finish line, still painted on the street, along with her sister also on horseback. “There’s a saying, ‘Horses give us the wings we lack.’ At this point, I guess he’s giving me running shoes, too.” The two hope to run the marathon next year.

Patrick O’Rear couldn’t walk with his high school graduation class due to continuing chemotherapy for his recently diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia amid current COVID-19 concerns. But the Dallas Stars fan was in for a surprise when former Stars goalie Marty Tuco delivered Patrick his diploma.

O’Rear has been a fan of the Dallas NHL team since he attended a game in 2013 and has been a passionate fan ever since. Tuco, the Stars Foundation president, found out about O’Rear’s fandom and current situation and decided to surprise him at the hospital, along with bringing a pre-recorded message from current Stars’ goalie Ben Bishop.

"I was just trying to take a nap and rest and stuff, and all of a sudden … Marty Turco shows up and I was like, 'What the heck, this is crazy,'" O'Rear said in an interview after the surprise. "It was really cool to see him come in and hand me my diploma." The interaction was recorded by the Stars and later played at O’Rear’s graduation ceremony for all of his classmates to see.

Joel Schumacher, famed movie costume designer and director of “St. Elmo’s fire”, “The Lost Boys”, “Batman and Robin” and more, died after a yearlong battle with cancer at the age of 80.

Schumacher started his career in the fashion industry but with his success there also came a drug addiction that forced him to change careers by 1970. In an interview with WHYY’s Fresh Air, Schumacher said he wanted to get back to his childhood dream of directing movies and found himself in Hollywood designing costumes. This led Schumacher to start writing movies like “Sparkle,” “Car Wash” and “The Wiz” and his directorial debut of the 1980 coming-of-age film “St. Elmo’s Fire” that later led to the horror comedy “The Lost Boys.”

Later, he was offered the reins for one of the most iconic franchises, “Batman,” after Tim Burton left. Infamously, Schumacher’s “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” were not received well by critics and a number of fans.

"I had a lot of fun with it. Since you always get asked if that's the case with them, I thought, well, I might as well play it up to — somewhat," he said in the interview. After his experiences with blockbusters, Schumacher turned to smaller movies before fading away from the front of Hollywood. However, he was always openly gay throughout his career and known for being outspoken about his life and the state of Hollywood.

"People who work in the movie business have the same feelings as people do all over the globe," he said when discussing homophobia in Hollywood. "The difference in show business is, if you can make money for people, they don't care what you do. "


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