Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020

From a renowned actor passing away after a rare neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis and years of treatment to LUNGevity announcing a new fund for patients with lung cancer in need of financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s what’s happening in the cancer space this week.

Actor Irrfan Khan, famously known for his roles in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Life of Pi’, passed away at age 54. Khan was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine cancer in 2018 and was admitted to the hospital due to a colon infection prior to his death.

Khan was a veteran character actor in Bollywood and Hollywood movies earning awards for his work, including an Independent Spirit Award for supporting actor in 2006 for his role in the Indian American drama “The Namesake”. He made his silver screen debut in the academy award nominated 1988 drama “Salaam Bombay!”. He went on to work with acclaimed directors such as Mira Nair, Wes Anderson and Ang Lee.

“His passing away is cinema’s loss," Ang Lee said in a statement. "We will miss him dearly. May you Rest In Peace my dear friend." Lee added that Khan was “a great artist, a true gentleman and a brave fighter.”

In England, new coronavirus-free centers have been set up in 21 areas to operate on thousands of patients with cancer who have been forced to have their surgeries delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a survey of 1,000 people from the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS),a third were worried about seeking help from their general practitioners due to fears of being infected by the new coronavirus. It is also estimated that cancer referrals have dropped by about 70%.

One of these centers is Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex that is now a designated cancer hub and treating patients with head and neck, breast and skin cancers. Patients will still have a teleconference for initial conversations with surgeons and anyone visiting the hospital will go through screening tests. Patients that are scheduled to undergo surgery are given a swab test for the new coronavirus and are asked to isolate for up to a week.

"Cancer hubs like this are imperative. Before we had the pandemic, cancer was a significant issue,” Queen Victoria Hospital associate medical director Dr. Ian Francis said in an interview. “If you put the pandemic on top of that, it's even more critical than ever to ensure their outcomes are as good as you could expect any other time."

Anon-profit summer camp for children with cancer has announced a shift to online offerings instead of having kids come to camp due to COVID-19 concerns.

Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, which has been in operation since the 1980s, provides children with cancer from Vermont, children from nearby states receiving care in Vermont and young cancer survivors from the state with a free week of summer camp.

The camp has decided to shift all its traditional activities online, and offer virtual dances, online storytelling, and other group activities to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

"I think we're really fortunate, too, that there's so much technology out there," Zack Engler a childhood cancer survivor who went to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta as a child and now serves on the non-profits board. "We're going to have fun; we're going to laugh. We're going to really enjoy each other's company, even if that's not in-person."

LUNGevity announces its “Breathe Easier Fund” to offer patients with lung cancer financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LUNGevity is offering patients with lung cancer who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic up to $500 in assistance. To qualify, patients must be in active treatment or actively seeking treatment. The household income should not exceed 300% of the federal poverty line, however the foundation is willing to make exceptions due to the pandemic. Additionally, they must be a resident of the United States and actively receiving care for their disease in the country.

“We are extremely honored to be able to offer this financial assistance to our lung cancer community during these challenging times,” Andrea Ferris, president and chief executive officer of LUNGevity Foundation, said in a press release. “LUNGevity is committed to ensuring all people living with lung cancer have access to the care they need when they need it. We’re especially thankful for the partners who have helped us make this funding possible.”

LUNGevity is continuing to offer free support to patients with lung cancer impacted by the pandemic by providing information on how to navigate the disease as a patient with cancer.


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