Friday Frontline: Child Donates Proceeds from Selling Pumpkins to Local Cancer Charity, Cancer Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Research Funds, and More

October 9, 2020

From a child from Indiana donating funds from a pumpkin sale to a local cancer charity, to a researcher at Stony Brook University being sentenced to prison after stealing $225,000 in cancer research funds, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

A child from Oklahoma receiving treatment for leukemia and two genetic disorders stays positive by singing

Tucker King of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was recently featured in an Oklahoma’s News 4 segment called “Kids with Courage.”

Prior to turning four, King was diagnosed with leukemia as well as two genetic disorders. His father, Sheldon King, recalled how Tucker spent his fourth birthday in the hospital receiving a bone marrow transplant to treat his cancer.

Through all the treatment, Tucker has kept an upbeat attitude singing to himself as he’s on his way to see the doctor.

“I see a spunky young kid who loves to be all over the place and it’s fun to see him do so well,” said Tucker’s oncologist Dr. Rikin Shah.

A new report shows that cancer waiting times are the worst in a decade for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NHS suspects that 20,000 patients have not been seen after an urgent general practitioner referral regarding cancer within 14 days. Moreover, only 87.8% of 170,000 patients in England expected to have cancer had a consultation within the crucial two-week window. For the NHS, this is their lowest record since 2009. In August, these rates were even lower compared to 2019 and have not risen to pre-pandemic levels.

Furthermore, cancer charities believe over 2,000 people might have missed a diagnosis in August making officials worried that many would miss out on life saving cancer treatments. Officials also believe that patients with cancer will only be able to receive timely treatment if COVID-19 is under control.

10-year-old Charlie Jones’ family patio was full of pumpkins of all sort, but it was the ugly ones that he was able to sell and donate the profits to a local cancer charity.

"This was just amazing, truly amazing, people lining up for ugly pumpkins," Charlie said in an interview. The Jamestown, Indiana, native in the spring planted a pumpkin patch while his entire family, mom, dad and three sisters recovered from the novel coronavirus. People in his neighborhood actually took to buying some of the pumpkins, but mostly the green, blue, red, white and misshapen ones.

To get the strange looking pumpkins, Charlie had to collect seeds from rotting pumpkins and clean them at home and replant them. As his family started to recover, they hauled trailer loads of the ugly pumpkins back to their house for sale. Charlie made $720 off the pumpkin sales and instead of pocketing the hard money, he decided to give it to the Boone County Cancer Society. The society was extra appreciative of Charlie’s donation. He said he is looking to do the fundraiser again next fall.

A former college professor was sentenced to serve one year in prison after stealing cancer research money.

Geoffrey Girnun, of Stony Brook University in New York, was charged with stealing cancer research money and using it for personal expenses that included mortgage payments and tuition for his own children. Under the plea deal he made, he will serve one year in prison and agreed to pay back the $225,000 he stole. The money he stole included funds from the National Institutes of Health and approximately $147,00 from the university’s foundation and state sponsored grants.

Since 2013, Girnun submitted electronic invoices to Stony Brook University for research items and equipment for his cancer-related research projects purchasing them from Atlas Metabolomics, LLC, and Empyrean Biosciences, LLC. These were two sham companies he set up to take the money, he would then withdraw the money from those bank accounts after the funds were deposited by the university.


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