Boo! It’s October, the month of all things frightful, tricks and treats, and dressing up in superhero costume. In the news this month, there’s a super scary shortage of medication that could be a nightmare for some kids, researchers may have some tricks up their sleeves to combat chemo brain, a former NFL player is treating women to cancer screenings, and a superhero alliance has formed to take on cancer at the earliest stages. So, grab your pumpkin spice latte and read on!
The International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection formed this month, reports nature.com, and joins research teams from the United States and the United Kingdom. Just as the name implies, the group is focused on diagnosing and treating cancer in the early stages. Stanford University, Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester, and University College London make up the alliance. Advances in cancer research and imaging have made early cancer detection more possible and the alliance hopes that they can further develop testing to be more accurate, helping to improve cancer treatment and survival rates. Find out more about the newly formed alliance here.
Another superhero to many is a former NFL player who knows just how devastating breast cancer can be. Each year more than 42,000 women and men die from the disease. Helping to limit the number of breast cancer deaths is DeAngelo Williams, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams has sponsored over 500 mammograms since 2015, reports today.com. He lost his mother and four aunts to the disease and says he covers the cost of screenings in their honor. Williams has a nonprofit organization that pays for mammograms at hospitals in cities in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Learn more here.
What’s not being provided this month is the proper supply of a crucial cancer drug. The truly frightening shortage of a cancer medication is keeping some kids from getting the doses they need, reports abcnews.go.com. Vincristine is a chemotherapy medication used to treat childhood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. It is a low-cost, generic medication that is now having to be rationed by doctors. As of July 2019, Pfizer is the only supplier of vincristine in the United States and has reported a shortage due to manufacturing delays. Teva Pharmaceuticals stopped supplying the drug in July. This type of drug shortage can be a matter of life or death to a child with cancer, but to the pharmaceutical companies, it may be about profitability. Drugs like vincristine don’t have a large profit margin so the companies don’t feel compelled to keep producing them. Pfizer is hustling to increase production and the FDA expects the vincristine supply to recover by January 2020, but in the meantime, there is no equivalent drug available. Learn more about the drug shortage and the children it is effecting here.
The good news is that there is no short supply of hope when great research is being done. For patients who feel like zombies thanks to chemo brain, there’s new hope for a solution in the future, reports medicalxpress.com. Scientists have discovered that there may be a link between the brain fog known as chemo brain and how harsh chemotherapy can be on the digestive system. Using mice for testing, researchers are investigating whether or not the changes to the gut microbiome during chemotherapy are causing cognitive issues. The hope is that, if there is a connection, patients could be treated with prebiotics, probiotics, and diet to help prevent chemo brain. There’s much more to be done, but the theory is promising. Learn more here.
Jennifer Lessinger is a professional writer and editor who learned the value of patient empowerment during her struggle with a hard-to-diagnose and complex endocrine disorder.