SU2C Telethon Serves as a Reminder to Mesothelioma Patients that Clinical Trials are Critical for Beating Cancer
By all accounts, the Stand Up 2 Cancer Telethon held Friday night was a success. The hour-long telethon presented facts and statistics, research information, and real-life stories that remind us all that cancer is far too prevalent in the United States, but that it can be beaten. Viewers got a firsthand account from a lung cancer patient that clinical trials are critical for finding a cure for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and all cancers. In addition, Stand Up 2 Cancer reports that more than $81 million has been pledged so far in connection with the September 7 fundraising event.
According to Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C), 100% of the monies raised during the telethon go directly to grants supporting cancer research with a goal “to accelerate ground-breaking research and bring new treatments to patients as quickly as possible.” More than $260 million has been raised for innovative cancer research since the first telethon aired in 2008. Since then, SU2C has made grants to seven multidisciplinary “Dream Teams” of researchers as well as to 26 young innovative scientists who are undertaking the fight to end cancer. The SU2C dream teams “pursue the most promising research, accelerating the discovery of new therapies for cancer patients and/or advancing efforts in cancer prevention research.”
Starting with a message from Frank McCormick, PhD, FRS, president of the American Association for Cancer Research, who shared his vision of a world without cancer, celebrity after celebrity reiterated the vision throughout the telethon. Tom Hanks urged viewers to support the SU2C initiative to “build a world where cancer is no more.”
During the telethon, viewers were presented with videos of the stark reminder that cancer does not discriminate between men, women or children. Two pediatric cancer patients, a young woman diagnosed with melanoma as a teenager, a breast cancer survivor and a retired policeman were just some of the cancer survivors highlighted during the program.
Former Baltimore, Maryland police officer and lung cancer patient David Gobin shared his story of the life-saving benefit he received from one of the dream teams funded through SU2C. After Gobin’s cancer metastasized, he took part in the SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team clinical trial that offered a treatment that “silences the bad genes in order to jump start the good ones.” Gobin received news that his tumors “shrank dramatically” and he has lived a longer life because of the clinical trial.
The epigenetics dream team, comprised of Johns Hopkins researchers, was initially funded through SU2C with a $6 million grant. The team focuses on discovering new ways to eliminate cancer cells through the use of epigenetics. The genetics of cancer is important, but how the genetics are packaged and how the genes are turned on or off through chemical switches, known as epigenetics, is the primary focus of the research.
Pleural mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer, caused by past exposure to asbestos, which affects the lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma often has a complex growth pattern that often rules out surgery and radiation therapy, since pinpointing the malignant cells is difficult. Although lung cancer is characterized by more distinct, individual tumors, the treatment is often similar, and the advances in lung cancer typically benefit mesothelioma patients as well.
For many lung cancer and mesothelioma patients, clinical trials offer the opportunity to receive new, potentially curative therapies. Through Gobin’s participation in the clinical trial, others facing a similar battle may soon benefit from the same breakthrough. Gene therapy has been touted as the “new frontier” in medicine and is offering hope to patients and doctors alike that once untreatable diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, may now be cured. Currently, gene therapy is only available through clinical trials.
For a list of clinical trials for malignant mesothelioma see clinicaltrials.gov.