Friday Frontline: May 17, 2019


From the first annual Glioblastoma Awareness Day to politics and today’s top performers, here’s what’s making headlines in the cancer space this week.​

Senator Lindsey Graham introduced this week a Senate Resolution designating July 17, 2019 as Glioblastoma (GBM) Awareness Day. Senator Graham led a bipartisan group, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Senator Elizabeth Warren, in introducing the new resolution.

“Glioblastoma is a devastating brain disease that has taken the lives of two of my very close friends and colleagues, Ted Kennedy and my dearest friend John McCain,” said Graham in a press release. “This Senate resolution shines a light on this terrible disease.”

The resolution is intended to increase public awareness of GBM and honor the individuals who have died from GBM or are currently fighting the disease. According to the press release, the resolution also supports efforts to develop better treatment options and to improve the long-term prognosis for those suffering from GBM. Glioblastoma Awareness Day also extends its support to any individuals who have brain tumors, including their families and caregivers.

“We are committed to combating and defeating this terrible disease,” added Graham.

Sterling K. Brown is partnering with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) on a series designed to illuminate the triumphs and challenges of life after a cancer diagnosis: Survivorship Today: What It’s Like to Live with Cancer. According to a BMS press release, the series will “explore the stories of people who have experienced lasting physical, emotional and social effects from cancer to build greater understanding of, and draw attention to, survivorship-related issues.”

Brown, two-time Emmy Award-winning actor (“This Is Us”, “Black Panther”) will be sharing his own story of personal loss due to cancer and how his family eventually learned to cope.

“When my uncle, Sonny, passed away from cancer just six months after his diagnosis, my entire family was devastated. Now, 15 years later, many people with cancer are living longer,” said Brown in the press release. “While that means they might have a chance to celebrate another birthday or watch their children have children, it also means their lives have likely been forever changed. Survivorship Today will bring these experiences to light to show the long-term effects of cancer, with the goal of helping people feel supported every step of their journey.”

The series will explore topics such as overcoming barriers, impact on emotional and mental health, relationships afterwards and other issues essential to living long-term with cancer.

Sterling K. Brown. Photo by Blairali.

A $2 billion verdict this week against Roundup is the third case to find the weed killer caused cancer. A jury in Oakland, California this week ordered the manufacturers of Roundup to pay Alva and Alberta Pilliod more than $2 billion in damages after finding that Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), reported the New York Times.

The Pilliods claimed they used Roundup on their property for decades. Alva Pilliod, 76, received a diagnosis of NHL in 2011. His wife Alberta, 74, also received a diagnosis of NHL in 2015. One of the lawyers representing the couple, Michael Miller, pointed out that homeowners may be at greater risk compared to professional gardeners because they were never warned to wear any protective gloves or clothing, said The Times.

The makers of Roundup have declared that the chemical is safe and international health regulators have corroborated it does not cause cancer. The active ingredient in the weed killer, glyphosate, is the world’s most widely used herbicide.

One young country music fan with stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma refused to let her diagnosis from making it to the May 12 Luke Combs concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorodo. Kylie Schwartz, 23, fought to live in order to see her favorite country music star perform at the famous venue, said Taste of Country.

“The first thing I told my oncologist," Schwartz tells Taste of Country, "… is, ‘You have to make me live to May 12.’”

And for Schwartz, it appears to have been well worth the fight — she enjoyed his sold-out show from 15th row seats and Combs ensured Schwartz and four of her friends had meet-and-greet passes. He even brought his makeup artist with him to Denver to do the entire party’s makeup. Neighbors pitched in to pay for a limo to take the group to the concert.

“(Luke Combs) gave me the biggest hug,” Schwartz says. “I don’t remember, I was fan-girling a bit, actually.”

She told Taste of Country that the concert gave her a new perspective on life and love for her parents, who sacrificed so much to care for her.

“My favorite song … is ‘When It Rains It Pours,’” Schwartz said. “(Luke Combs) says a line in there, 'What I thought was gonna be the death of me was my saving grace.' Even though he meant it in a totally different way, I took this quote and that’s exactly how I felt … Literally, what I thought was going to be the death of me ... it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me," she said.

Schwartz will continue chemotherapy will through September, a press release from Northwestern Medicine said.

Luke Combs. Photo by clintonbrannen.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement that he will run for president in 2020 has resurfaced his dream of a White House focused on ending cancer.

“If I could be anything, I would have wanted to be the president that ended cancer,” Biden said in a Rose Garden address in October 2015. “Because it’s possible.” He made this statement only five months after losing his own son to brain cancer, when he announced that he would not be running for president in 2016.

After leaving office, Biden pursued cancer-fighting efforts in a way that could possibly suit a campaign, reported STAT News, which called The Biden Cancer Initiative the “the pillar of Biden’s policy work since leaving office” and managed to raise $10 million in its first year.

The Biden Cancer Initiative calls for increased in access to care, tackling systemic issues slowing down a cure, and greater transparency among medical institutions. At the WeWork Cancer Collaboration Hub in New York City this year, Biden was clear that we can no longer accept disparities, unaffordable treatments, and unaffordable health care, according to Linda Tantawi, CEO of Susan G Komen Greater NYC.

Biden’s time as orchestrator of the Obama administration’s “cancer moonshot” may give Biden the opportunity to make cancer, its treatments and his personal tragedy central to the 2020 presidential election, said STAT.

Former Vice President Joe Biden at the 2019 WeWork Cancer Collaboration Hub in New York City. Photo courtesy of Susan G Komen Greater NYC.

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