Saturday, April 18, 2015

R.I.P – Daniel Wang, Brain Tumor Victim & Greeting Card Artist

What would you do if you were diagnosed with brain cancer? 

I might crawl into a corner, curl up into a fetal position and moan a lot. I might walk into the nearest bar and order drinks until I couldn’t walk any more. I might go paragliding, because, what’s the worst that could happen?

Daniel Wang didn’t do any of these things. Instead, He used his brain tumor experience to draw greeting cards.

According to a poignant article by Amanda Marrazzo in the Chicago Tribune, Daniel started creating greeting cards with his colorful and cheery pencil drawings, and with the help of his business class instructor, Ryan Bruno he turned his artwork into a small business.

He donated all the proceeds from sales of his greeting cards to the Illinois-based “Make-A-Wish” foundation catering to the needs of children with “life-threatening medical conditions”.  See

This is a kid who used his disease, his handicap to help others instead of wallowing in self-pity and anger.

I find this to be pretty inspiring, actions that made me believe that Daniel was more of a man than a struggling teenage.

If I ever have the ravenous and unbeatable brain cancer that Daniel had, I hope I have the grace and vision and power to be as giving as him.

And here’s a link to my original blog posting about his cards and his achievements when he was alive:

Monday, March 30, 2015

60 Minutes Reports on Possible Brain Tumor Cure from … Polio (!?)

If you didn’t watch the 60 Minutes segment entitled “Killing Cancer” last night, you should. Here’s a link:
The episode announces a new Glioblastoma treatment protocol developed at Duke University: infecting (injecting?) the tumor with polio.

What? Polio? One of the great diseases of the last century? Are you crazy? Well, as it turns out, a lot of people thought that Dr. Matthias Gromeier, who  came up with this idea, was truly crazy.

As I understand it, cancer is “invisible” to the body’s immune system and, as such, grows exponentially without the body’s natural defenses. Injecting polio both helps kill the disease and, at the same time, makes the body’s immune system aware of the cancer. Once aware, the body’s immune system attacks the cancer and seems to do more work in killing the tumor than the polio.

Importantly, the large polio molecules don’t seem to infect the brain (phew!).

This treatment protocol is in an early stage trial in which nobody expects a 100% batting average. But 60 Minutes reports that “So far there have been 22 patients in the polio trial. Eleven died. Most of them had the higher dose. But even so they lived months longer than expected. The other 11 continue to improve. Four are past six months which Duke calls "remission."

The show went on to say that “Dr. Darell Bigner is the head of the study and of Duke's Brain Tumor Center. He's been fighting brain cancer 50 years and he told us he has never seen results like those in patients Fritz Andersen and Stephanie Lipscomb. They lived months longer than expected. The other 11 continue to improve. Four are past six months which Duke calls ‘remission.’”

I can’t summarize this mesmerizing 60 Minutes segment in this blog. So go to this link and watch it yourself:

*Pictured above: Dr. Matthias Gromeier, a molecular biologist who's been laboring over this therapy for 25 years and Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes

Friday, March 27, 2015

The MIND Diet: Cutting the Risk of Alzheimer’s by 50%

Here’s a link to an article by Carolyn Gregoire of the Huffington Post which reports that the “MIND diet” (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) “…is effective even if it is not followed rigorously, according to a new study from Rush University.

Researchers found that people who followed the diet closely had a 53 percent lower chance of developing Alzheimer's, and those who only moderately adhered to the diet still lowered their risk of developing the devastating brain disease by 35 percent.”

So why the bit about those who followed the diet “closely” versus those “who only moderately” adhered to the diet?

Because people cheat on diets, that’s why! I know a zillion people on diets and almost everybody cheats, cheats, cheats. They mostly cheat because the food on the diet tastes like cardboard or they just can’t give up that pint of ice cream after dinner every evening. 

Whatever the case, I like the idea of measuring what “normal” dieters actually do.
The original research was developed at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and published in the online edition of The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

I particularly like Ms.Gregoire’s article because it gives you more than just the headline and reworded press releasee. You can read it here:

And here’s a link to the write up that Ms. Gregoire refers to:

Friday, March 13, 2015

“Cancer Survival Boosted by Tetanus Shot With Vaccine”

That’s the lead sentence of an article by Peter Loftus in the Wall Street Journal reads “A common tetanus booster shot given to patients with a deadly form of brain cancer shortly before an experimental cancer vaccine prolonged their survival, a small study found.” See:
BTW - some of the patients in the test had glioblastoma, aka GBM. If you need to know more about GBM, the National Brain Tumor Society has a great site about GBM and has launched a major effort to tackle this horribly deadly disease:

Loftus’ article goes on to say, “Duke University researchers who led the study say the regimen could mark a new way to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack tumors, a growing area of interest in cancer treatment. The scientific journal Nature published the study results online Wednesday.

“We’ve discovered a way to enhance cancer vaccines which dramatically improves their efficacy” without significant side effects, said John Sampson, chief of neurosurgery at Duke and lead author of the study. He cautioned the study was small—12 patients—and the regimen needs to be validated in further testing, which is being planned.”

So what should you and your brain tumor loved one do? My wife talked to a close friend of ours and she’s asking her doctor if she should/can get a tetanus shot right away.


PS – The photo is of John Sampson, chief of neurosurgery at Duke, and grad student Kristen Batich who, along with their colleagues, studied an innovative treatment for lethal brain tumors: using a tetanus booster to enhance the effect of a vaccine, thereby improving patient survival. Photo credit: Shawn Rocco/Duke Medicine

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Terminally Illin’ – “Chaos in Humanhattan”

Today I got a real treat, my own personal copy of Chaos in Humanhattan - the scary, cynical, irreverent, twenty-something, mash-up of a memoir, a ”chemo-induced ‘Alice in Wonderland’ story and a “campy ‘Hollywood’ action adventure” graphic novel that focuses on the Kaylin Andres and her Ewing Sarcoma cancer battles.

While the story is fantastical, so is the fact that Kaylin is still alive. I believe she’s still living because she found humor – black humor, gallows humor, sardonic humor – an vehicle for empowering her fight with a dark, hideously unrelenting cancer that whacked her at twenty-three and kept trying to drag her into the grave.

“Chaos in Humanhattan” is written and drawn for millennials. If you aren’t a millennial in your age or in your soul, you might find it flippant or upsetting. To my way of thinking, Kaylin addressed that when she wrote her book and blog’s subtitle – “Cancer is not Funny … Cancer is Hilarious.”  If that line doesn’t resonate with you, don’t read this book.

But it you are a millennial, in age or attitude, you should read this book. The story, by Kalin and Jon Solo, is in turns bleak, poignant, darkly comedic and upsetting – like many cancer survivor stories. 

The graphics by Jon Solo and Jade Takushi are terrific - powerful, complex, and vivid. They are just as good as any Manga I’ve ever read.

What I really like about Chaos in Humanhattan is that Kalin and Jon capture all the horrible emotions that cancer victims go through, from “Why me?” to “Oh no!” to “I’m done” to “Now, I’m really pissed” and everything in between.