Friends of Be Bold, Be Bald!
The ongoing battle against cancer goes far beyond Be Bold, Be Bald! Organizations like the Cancer Moonshot Initiative are helping in the fight by searching for a cure and supporting those affected by cancer. We couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate today, Rare Disease Day, than by sharing some of the amazing progress made by one of our partners in the fight against cancer.
Rare Diseases in Light of the Cancer Moonshot:
During his final State of the Union address in 2016, President Barack Obama called upon Vice President Joe Biden to lead the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The idea behind this initative was to establish a four-year, billion-dollar effort to accelerate progress in the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of all forms of cancer. The ultimate goal was to find a cure for cancer by 2020 or sooner.
Achievements of the Cancer Moonshot:
Two years have passed since then. This new year marks the halfway point of the Moonshot Initiative’s duration, and the number of advancements in cancer research has already grown exponentially. Progress with immunotherapies has been especially successful. In the last five years, immunotherapy went from being perceived as a “voodoo science” in the eyes of the medical community, to a fast-growing, widely-used treatment that can give many patients a second chance at life. Specifically, the immunotherapy drug Nivolumab has been found to shrink lung and colorectal tumors, and has also been effective in treating melanoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.
Several breakthroughs in brain and breast cancer research have already been made in 2018. Researchers have discovered that injecting these tumors with viruses helps immune systems detect, attack, and kill cancer cells when used in conjunction with immunotherapy treatments.
The Cancer Moonshot and Rare Diseases:
Even rare disease research, which is often not made a priority in the medical field, is finding a new hope thanks to the sense of urgency established by the Cancer Moonshot.
Rare diseases aren’t very “rare” at all, contrary to their classification. While individual rare diseases impact a small number of people when compared to highly recognized diseases, there are collectively over 7,000 rare diseases that cause immense suffering for 300 million people across the globe.
Mesothelioma, a rare but preventable cancer caused by asbestos exposure, is especially aggressive. A patient’s life expectancy typically ranges from 12 to 21 months, depending on the cancer’s stage when they are diagnosed. However, this affliction may soon come to an end thanks to the immunotherapy drug Keytruda. Paul Zygielbaum, a retired aerospace engineer, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004 and outlived his prognosis by 12 years. Zygielbaum found salvation in Keytruda infusions when surgeries and chemotherapy could no longer keep up with the progression of his cancer. His tumors began to not only shrink and but even disappear only ten months after starting immunotherapy.
Rare Disease Day is today, Wednesday, February 28th. On this day, advocacy groups, patients and their families are coming together to raise awareness among the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.
Though incredible progress has been made since the start of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, there is still countless advancements to be made and no time to waste in order to ensure that cancer becomes a thing of the past. The tangible deadline set by the initative has undoubtedly instilled the medical community with a sense of urgency and significantly sped up the process, but the sentiment cannot end there. It’s up to all of us to spread determination, hope, and advocacy to make this initiative work; especially when it comes to rare diseases.
Visit the Rare Disease Day website to see how you can get involved and #ShowYourRare to show you care!