Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on November 29, 2019


From the first patient death under the Right to Try law to a 9-year-old ovarian cancer survivor meeting her hero Jim Cantore, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.

The first U.S. patient to receive an experimental treatment for recurrent glioblastoma (GBM) under the federal Right to Try Act has died, according to the developer of the drug.

The patient began treatment with the investigational immunotherapy Gliovac, developed by Epitopoietic Research Corp. (ERC), in late November 2018. The patient was “very unhealthy” when the therapy began, according to Joseph Elliot, managing director of ERC-USA. The death has been reported to the Food and Drug Administration.

However, Elliot noted that a second patient to receive Gliovac has shown early signs of possible remission, but said it is still too early to know the drug’s durability.

GBM is the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer with a survival rate of 15 to 18 months after initial diagnosis.

The first baseman for the Chicago Cubs raised more than $1 million for childhood cancer. Anthony Rizzo, who is a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, created the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation in 2012. This past weekend, he returned to his hometown of Parkland, Florida, to participate in the 8th Annual Walk-Off for Cancer.

More than 1,200 participants helped raise $1.3 million. Rizzo and his foundation then presented a $1 million check to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation. The University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center was also a beneficiary.

“When my family and I started the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation eight years ago, it was our dream to help as many families as we could battling pediatric cancer. Today, that dream has become a reality,” Rizzo said.

More than 100 patients at Morrison Cancer Center in Nebraska received free Thanksgiving meals this week. Staff and volunteers raised money and collected food donations, then packed up baskets filled with a patient’s choice of ham, turkey or pork loin, apple or pumpkin pie, stuffing, bread and potatoes.

In its first year, the drive gave out 10 free meals. But this year they were able to help 145 patients and their families.

“I started it because both of my grandparents had cancer, and I have several friends that also suffer from cancer,” Armeshia Onken, the food drive organizer, said in an interview with KSNB. “There's so many people that just need a blessing, and just need a little bit of hope to keep that going.”

A woman in Wisconsin is extra thankful for her dog, who she said sniffed out her cancer, not once but four times. Stephanie Herfel credits her Husky Sierra for finding her ovarian cancer six years ago after Sierra got upset when she put her nose on Herfel’s belly, according to a report by ABC 7 News.

Herfel was also experiencing stomach aches. With the aches and Sierra acting strange, Herfel went to the doctor where she received a stage 3 ovarian cancer diagnosis. She went into remission at six months; however, it recurred three more times — Sierra detected these, too.

A 9-year-old stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor learns that dreams do come true. Kaylee Tolleson, whose dream is to be a meteorologist, has always wanted to meet her hero, Jim Cantore, a well-known meteorologist for the Weather Channel.

Following treatment, Make-A-Wish fulfilled that dream by sending her on a trip to the Weather Channel Headquarters where she got to meet Cantore and practice forecasting the weather. Tolleson also toured the studio and saw the latest storm tracking technology. She also scored a jacket from the Weather Channel.

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