Friday Frontline: Dinosaurs Had Cancer Too, NFL Player Opts Out of Upcoming Season, And More

August 7, 2020
Conor Killmurray

From the recent discovery of osteosarcoma in a dinosaur bone to NFL player Nate Solder opting out of the upcoming season for health concerns, here’s what’s making headlines in the cancer space this week.

New research published in The Lancet Oncology identified a unique group of patients that had previously suffered from malignant cancers — dinosaurs.

Scientists from Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum and McMaster University have identified a malignant bone cancer in the fibula of a Centrosaurua apertus fossil. The plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur, which roamed the Earth 76 to 77 million years ago, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

While the diagnosis is new, the bones are not. They were discovered in 1989 by researchers in a massive bone bed in Alberta, Canada. The fibula in question was badly malformed when discovered but it wasn’t until recently that scientist questioned whether it was just a healing bone. Which led to the “hunt for dinosaur cancer” that brought in experts from the cancer field, including pathology and radiology experts.

"What this study shows, because we found bone cancer at quite an advanced stage, is that dinosaurs were not only afflicted by bone cancer but probably all sorts of other cancers that we see in vertebrates today," said David Evans, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum and one of the study's lead researchers, in an interview.

The researchers analyzed the tumor through high-resolution CT scans and confirmed the osteosarcoma tumor by comparing it to a human bone with the same tumor. According to the researchers, it actually makes sense that bone cancer would have plagued the dinosaurs as they grew extremely rapidly. Moreover, the presence of this tumor suggests dinosaurs suffered from other diseases that affect bones such as tuberculosis and osteomyelitis.

"We often think of dinosaurs as sort of mythical, powerful creatures, and I think this discovery really underscores that they can be afflicted by diseases that we see around us today, even horrible fatal cancers," Evans explained. "I think in an odd way it brings them even more back to life."

New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder has opted out of the upcoming NFL season due to concerns of COVID-19, as he and his son are immunocompromised from cancer treatments.

Solder’s son Hudson, 5, was diagnosed with Wilms tumors in both kidneys and has been receiving chemotherapy treatments. Solder himself was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014 during a routine physical.

“Our family has health concerns, most notably our son’s ongoing battle with cancer, as well as my own bout with cancer,” the Solder family wrote in a statement. “We also welcomed a new addition to our family this spring, a baby boy. With fear and trembling, we struggle to keep our priorities in order, and, for us, our children’s health and the health of our neighbors comes before football. We fully recognize that being able to make a decision like this is a privilege.”

Sharael Kolberg’s plans to run 50 miles in 50 days in all 50 states to celebrate her 50th birthday in support of breast cancer awareness have changed due to COVID-19.

Kolberg,a breast cancer survivor herself, was hoping to use the event to help raise awareness and donations for Susan G. Komen. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has had to restrict her travel and switch the event to her hometown of Laguna Beach, California. Her new plan is to run with an individual from each U.S. state via zoom for 50 miles and raise funds virtually.

“I’d love to get as many people as possible to sign up to join me virtually to support my cause to help spread breast cancer awareness,” said Kolberg in an interview. “I want to give breast cancer patients the hope that they can be in my shoes someday soon — out running again.”

Sunday Burquest, a former contestant on the reality show “Survivor” is receiving treatment for a second cancer.

Burquest, who was diagnosed with breast cancer before participating in the 2016 Generation X vs. Millennials season of “Survivor”, was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer which has spread to her liver, ovary and lymph nodes. Surgery was not an option and she was given a stage 4 terminal diagnosis. According to Burquest, in a written piece on her diagnosis in People, she is now receiving chemotherapy and was told by a doctor that typically, patients with her diagnosis would have a few months to two years to live.

“Good thing I’m not typical,” she wrote. “I have an amazing tribe supporting me: my husband, four amazing kids and two daughters-in-law. My biggest concern was putting my kids through another cancer diagnosis. While it hasn't been easy, they're quick to ask what I need.”

Burquest’s fans and fellow contestants from “Survivor” have set up a GoFundMe and are setting up various fundraisers for her, including live streams and a poker tournament. According to Burquest, her family does not have health insurance and is part of a co-op group where they get reimbursement. One chemotherapy appointment was $13,000.

“I had my second chemotherapy treatment last week and the symptoms smacked me hard,” she said. “Even so, I stand by my faith and the belief that I will see a miracle.”

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