Friday Frontline: Feb. 22, 2019


From shark genomes to celebs and important updates, here is a quick overview of what is making headlines in the cancer space.

Cobie Smulders, star of “Friends from College” and Marvel movies, delivered a message to women about ovarian cancer during her appearance on “Busy Tonight”. The actress was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 25. “Know your body as well as you can,” Smulders said. “It is a really hard disease to diagnose because the symptoms are bloating and pressure… I thought, ‘Something’s not right.’ I went to the doctor and demanded an ultrasound. There’s no screening for ovarian cancer. [The doctors] were like, ‘No, no, you’re fine. You’re only 25.’ Then they found [the cancer] because I persisted.” Smulders is now 10 years cancer-free.

Great white sharks may have a rare genome in their genetic code that could help treat cancer in humans, according to The Independent. Findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), suggest these ancient predators, who have existed for at least 16 million years, have genetic adaptations which help lessen their cancer risk. Evolution has “fine-tuned” great white sharks’ genes to heal harmful mutations and survive wounds that would be fatal to humans. These accumulate in the genetic code with age, as cells are exposed to environmental carcinogens that would lead to cancers and other disease in humans. “Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases,” Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., one of the study’s co-authors and director of the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, said in the article. “There’s still tons to be learned from these evolutionary marvels, including information that will potentially be useful to fight cancer and age-related diseases, and improve wound healing treatments in humans, as we uncover how these animals do it.”

Photo by Brocken Inaglory

Monkees bassist and singer Peter Tork has died at age 77 after being diagnosed with rare tongue cancer ten years ago, as reported on Tork’s sister, Anne Thorkelson, has confirmed the musician and co-star of the group’s 1966 hit NBC show, “The Monkees,” was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the tongue in 2009. However, Tork’s sister did not state the official cause of death. The musician was previously diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, an uncommon form of malignant neoplasm that arises within secretory glands, usually the major and minor salivary glands of the head and neck, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

© Getty Images

Several female celebrities are planning to “take it all off” on live TV to raise awareness for gynecologic cancers on The All New Monty Ladies Night: Who Bares Wins 2019. This “celebrity strip-tease for cancer awareness” is scheduled to broadcast in March 2019. The celebrities will be asked to “bare all” to encourage women to perform regular breast self-exams, go for annual PAP smears and generally be more mindful about their gynecologic health. Among the celebrities are actress Laurie Bret from “EastEnders,” tennis legend Martina Navratilova and Megan Barton, famous for appearing on the 2018 reality-TV show “Love Island.”

Photo by Michal.Pohorelsky,

The World Health Organization (WHO) campaign for the global elimination of cervical cancer is projected to help wipe out the disease in most countries by the end of the century, according to a new study published in The Lancet Oncology. Cervical cancer is considered one of the greatest health threats to women and affects over 500,000 people around the world yearly, with a patient dying from the disease every two minutes. The ongoing WHO efforts could potentially eradicate cervical cancer in nearly 150 countries worldwide. Researchers said the organization is beginning widespread vaccination coverage as well as efforts to expand cervical cancer screenings in 2020. Researchers predict their efforts, if all goes according to plan, could prevent up to 13.4 million cases of cervical cancer by 2069.

Nine more women have died from a rare cancer thought to be linked to breast implants. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the number of cases of women diagnosed with breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) in the United States has increased to 457 women. The FDA was the first public health agency in the world to warn about the risks of BIA-ALCL, alerting the public in 2011 that there is a risk for women with breast implants for developing this disease. We hope that this information prompts providers and patients to have important, informed conversations about breast implants and the risk of BIA-ALCL,” Binita Ashar, M.D., from the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a statement on agency’s continuing efforts to educate patients on known risk of lymphoma from breast implants. “At the same time, we remain committed to working in partnership with all stakeholders to continue to study, understand and provide updates about this important public health issue.”

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