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FDA Commissioner Resigns, "Jeopardy!" Host Alex Trebek Receives Cancer Diagnosis


From artificial intelligence to a surprise FDA resignation, check out this week’s quick overview of what is making headlines in the cancer space.

Former “The Daily Show” host and comic Jon Stewart was in Washington, D.C., this week promoting a petition for Congress to immediately authorize permanent funding for the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund. “The Fund is running out of money as people continue to get sick and die from the health effects of the 9/11 attacks, and now families are seeing up to a 70 percent cut in their payments,” said Stewart in the MoveOn petition. Stewart implored Congress to immediately vote to support bipartisan bill, “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.” The bill would authorize full, permanent funding for the victims and families suffering from illnesses and cancers related to the 9/11 attacks.

Scott Gottlieb, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, resigned from his post on Tuesday, effective next month, to spend time with his family. Gottlieb, one of the most aggressive anti-tobacco FDA leaders, crusaded against the opioid and teen-vaping epidemic and is also a physician and cancer survivor. “It was a very hard decision,” Gottlieb said in an interview. “This is the best job I will ever have. I’m leaving because I need to spend time with my family. I get home late Friday, work on weekends and come back to Washington on Sunday. I did the job 100 percent.” Gottlieb and his family live in Westport, Connecticut. The resignation took some senior FDA officials by surprise, according to the Washington Post. Gottlieb’s key issue — youth vaping — is being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. His plan would restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to help stop the underage vaping epidemic.

Photo by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Commissioner Gottlieb, National Press Club

Poison Drummer Rikki Rockett, a throat cancer survivor, is the official spokesperson for The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s 21st Annual Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which will take place April 7-14. That week hundreds of medical and dental centers around the world will offer free oral, head and neck cancer screenings to the public. Rockett, founder and drummer of the rock band Poison, received a throat cancer diagnosis in 2015, which was attributed to HPV. Following radiation and immunotherapy, Rockett is in remission and urging the public to “Open Up and Say Ahhh!” To learn more about the free screenings, visit headandneck.org.

The FDA granted breakthrough device designation to Paige.AI, a New York startup company, for artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Page.AI has been working with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to digitize pathology slides and create a pathology dataset. “Paige.AI is focused on providing artificial intelligence tools to pathologists that will enable them to become faster and more accurate in their diagnosis and treatment recommendations for the care of cancer patients,” said Leo Grady, Ph.D., chief executive officer. “We are thrilled to receive Breakthrough designation and look forward to collaborating with the FDA to bring our products to market, starting with prostate cancer and expanding from there.”

Alex Trebek, host of “Jeopardy!,” announced Wednesday that he received a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. In a YouTube video, he shared the news with fans and vowed to continue working as he fights the disease. “Truth told, I have to (keep hosting) because under the terms of my contract, I have to host “Jeopardy!” for three more years,” joked the 78-year-old. “So help me. Keep the faith, and we'll win. We'll get it done.” Trebek has hosted “Jeopardy!” since it first aired in 1984. Fans and celebrities have shown their support across social media, including fellow game show host Pat Sajak who wrote via Twitter: “The Sajak family is deeply saddened to hear of Alex Trebek’s struggle with cancer. Our hearts go out to him and his family. But there is no one I know who is stronger and more determined, and I would never bet against him. We, and the entire country, are pulling for you, Alex.”

Photo by Peabody Awards - Jeopardy!, CC BY 2.0

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