Monthly Archives: August 2004

Public Lacks Important Knowledge about Oral, Head and Neck Cancer

  • 8/30/2004
  • Washington, DC
  • News release from AHNS
  • American Head and Neck Society (AHNS)

Most adult Americans know how to light a cigarette and order a drink, but a great number of them are clueless about the consequence of these two destructive habits – oral and head and neck cancer.

Oral and head and neck cancer (OHNC) is the term used for the group of cancers found in head and neck region, including the oral cavity (mouth, floor of mouth, lips, teeth, gums, lining of lips and cheeks), oropharynx (the back one-third of the tongue), the nasopharynx (area behind the nose), hypopharynx (lower part of the throat), and larynx (voice box).

It is estimated that nearly 40,000 new cases of oral, head, and neck cancer were diagnosed in 2003; approximately 85 percent of them attributable to tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption. The five year survival rate for OHNC is only 56 percent, a rate that has remained unchanged over several decades. Considering that most adults who smoke today started using tobacco before the age of 18 and adolescent tobacco users are three times more likely to drink alcohol than non-tobacco users, the Federal Government has included improved survival and early detection of oral and head and neck cancer as two of the nation’s health objectives.

Experts believe that increased efforts to educate the public about OHNC will lead to early detection and treatment of these cancers, increasing survival. The current study endeavors to document the public’s belief about OHNC in order to raise awareness and education initiatives to prompt earlier disease recognition. The results of “Survey of Oral and Head and Neck Cancer Knowledge among the American Public” will be presented by authors, T. A. Day, MD, of the Head and Neck Tumor Program, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S. G. Reed and G. F. Cannick, of College of Dental Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, and A.M. Horowitz, of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Bethesda, MD, at the 6th International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer (http://www.sic2004.org) being held August 7-11, 2004, at the Wardman Park Marriott, in Washington, D.C.

Methodology: A nationally representative sample of 1,013 Americans ages 18 or older were interviewed by telephone from February 27, 2003 to March 2, 2003 using an unrestricted Random Digit Dialing (RDD) technique that significantly reduces serial bias and ensures that respondents with both listed and unlisted numbers are reached. Only one interview was conducted per household. A subgroup of 269 tobacco users was developed from the original sample based on respondent’s answers.

Survey questions were developed from prior studies on oral cancer including those used in supplements to the National Health Interview Surveys from 1990 and 1992. They included information on self-perceived knowledge about the early signs, symptoms, and risk factors for oral and head and neck cancers. The results were weighted to known proportions for age, gender, geographic region, and race. A margin of error is noted of plus or minus 3.1 percent for all respondents; plus or minus six percent for those who used tobacco.

Results:

Knowledge: Sixty-two percent of respondents said that they were “not very” or “not at all” knowledgeable about OHNC; five percent considered themselves “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable. Tobacco users reported a 58 percent and seven percent knowledge level, respectively.

Location of cancers: Forty-nine percent of respondents did not know that OHNC most commonly occur in the mouth and throat; 23 percent correctly identified throat cancer, and 17 percent correctly identified mouth cancer. A total of 25 percent inaccurately considered brain cancer to be included in the category of OHNC.

Incidence: When asked how many people would be diagnosed with OHNC in the US this year, 19 percent accurately selected the broad range of 10,000-60,000. Only twenty-two percent of tobacco users identified the correct response.

Risk Factors: Only forty-two percent of respondents and 44 percent of tobacco users accurately selected smoking, 18 and 13 percent respectively selected chewing tobacco. Environmental pollution was considered a higher risk than sun exposure, alcohol, or diet for both groups although there is limited evidence to support this.

Early Detection: Only twelve percent of respondents and ten percent of tobacco users correctly identified the earliest signs of oral cancer (red or white sores in the mouth that do not heal). Hoarseness as an early symptom of voice box cancer was correctly selected by only two percent overall and one percent of tobacco users. Thirty-nine percent of all respondents and 42 percent of tobacco users reported that they did not know any symptoms. Interestingly, seventeen percent incorrectly selected headache as a symptom.

Treatment: Athough surgery followed by radiation remains the most common treatments, the respondents selected chemotherapy (43 percent) followed by radiation therapy (41 percent) and surgery (27 percent). More than one third (39 percent) did no know what treatments were available.

Treatment Related Morbidity: Results for the overall group and tobacco users were similar when asked to identify possible side effects to treatment for OHNC. The more common and most life-altering side effects of treatment for OHNC were rarely selected: disfigurement (four percent), loss of taste (four percent), difficulty speaking (two percent), sore mouth and gums (one percent), and xerostomia (dry mouth) (one percent).Forty-six percent reported that they did not know, while hair loss (31 percent), nausea (21 percent), vomiting (seven percent) were most commonly selected.

Examinations: Only twenty-six percent of respondents reported having been examined by a doctor for OHNC, while 94 percent of the participants reported never having been taught how to examine themselves for OHNC.

Tobacco and Alcohol Usage: Twenty-six percent of respondents reported using tobacco products such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Three percent of the overall group reported consuming more than four alcoholic drinks per day, while six percent of tobacco users responded the same.

Conclusion: Knowledge about oral and head and neck cancer, its risk factors, early signs and symptoms, and possible treatments is severely lacking in the American public, particularly in high risk groups. Early identification of OHNC symptoms and prompt medical diagnosis may increase survival rates. The study authors suggest that health education programs should be expanded to inform the public about OHNC, especially those at high risk for developing these cancers.

August, 2004|Archive|

Cetuximab, radiation almost doubles head and neck cancer survival

  • 8/30/2004
  • NEW ORLEANS, LA
  • James A. Bonner, MD
  • 40th ASCO Annual Meeting

By blocking the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), cetuximab (Erbitux, ImClone and Bristol-Myers Squibb) may be a valuable treatment option for patients with head and neck cancer.

In several studies presented here at the 40th ASCO Annual Meeting, cetuximab produced results as a single agent or in combination with other drugs or radiation in patients with locoregionally advanced and recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Adding cetuximab to radiation therapy nearly doubled survival for patients with locoregionally advanced SCCHN in a phase-3 international trial.
“The use of cetuximab and radiation therapy may become an excellent choice of therapy for this group of patients,” said James A. Bonner, MD, the chairman and Merle M. Salter Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Most SCCHN cells overexpress the EGFR, which is associated with aggressive tumor behavior and poor clinical outcome. Bonner and his colleagues hypothesized that treating patients with EGFR-blocking drugs, like cetuximab, could potentially make these cancers more sensitive to radiation.
The researchers compared survival between 211 patients who received high-dose radiation therapy plus cetuximab and 213 patients who received radiation therapy alone. Median survival was nearly twice as great in the cetuximab group: 54 months versus 28 months. At one year, 69% of patients in the cetuximab-radiation arm had achieved locoregional control, compared with 59% of patients in the radiation-alone arm. More of the cetuximab patients were alive at two years and three years, compared with the radiation-only group. The cetuximab regimen was well tolerated, with skin reactions noted as the most common adverse effect.

Two other studies looked at cetuximab in patients with advanced recurrent or metastatic SCCHN. A multicenter phase-2 study evaluated the response rate of single-agent cetuximab in 103 patients with advanced recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN not suitable for local therapy and refractory to platinum-based chemotherapy. The overall response rate was 12.6%, all partial responses. When the rate of stable disease was considered, the disease-control rate increased to 45.6%. The median time to progression was 2.3 months, with a median survival of 5.9 months. Fifty-three patients experienced progressive disease and went to receive cetuximab in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy; 25 patients were not assessable. Among these patients, there were 14 patients with stable disease and 14 patients with progressive disease. Median time to progression in this group was 50 days. Grade-3/4 adverse events included fatigue in 4% of patients, vomiting in 2% of patients and nausea, diarrhea and an acne-like rash each in 1% of patients. There was one treatment-related death due to infusion reaction.

A randomized phase-1 study evaluated the safety and tolerability of cetuximab in combination with one of three doses of 5-fluorouracil and either cisplatin or carboplatin (Paraplatin, Bristol-Myers Squibb) in 52 patients with recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN. The overall response rate for 47 evaluable patients was 48.9%, according to the study’s abstract. The response rate included two complete responses and 21 partial responses. When stable disease was considered, the disease control rate was 83.0%.
Skin reactions were the most frequent adverse event of any grade. Grade-3/4 adverse events occurring in at least 10% of patients who received cisplatin were leukopenia, asthenia, nausea/vomiting, mucositis, anemia and thrombocytopenia. Severe adverse events occurring in at least 10% of patients who received carboplatin were leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, asthenia and mucositis.

Source: Bonner JA, et al. Cetuximab prolongs survival in patients with locoregionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck: a phase 3 study of high dose radiation therapy with or without cetuximab. Abstract #5507.
Trigo J, et al. Cetuximab monotherapy is active in patients with platinum-refractory recurrent/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: results of a phase 2 study. Abstract #5502.
Humblet Y, et al. Phase 1 study of cetuximab in combination with cisplatin or carboplatin and 5-fluorouracil in patients with recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Abstract #5513.
All presented at the 40th ASCO Annual Meeting. June 5-8, 2004. New Orleans

August, 2004|Archive|

Doctors grow new jaw in man’s back

  • 8/27/2004
  • LONDON, England
  • Reported by a release to the Associated Press
  • Lancet

A German who had his lower jaw cut out because of cancer has enjoyed his first meal in nine years — a bratwurst sandwich — after surgeons grew a new jaw bone in his back muscle and transplanted it to his mouth in what experts call an “ambitious” experiment.

According to this week’s issue of The Lancet medical journal, the German doctors used a mesh cage, a growth chemical and the patient’s own bone marrow, containing stem cells, to create a new jaw bone that fit exactly into the gap left by the cancer surgery.

Tests have not been done yet to verify whether the bone was created by the blank-slate stem cells and it is too early to tell whether the jaw will function normally in the long term. But the operation is the first published report of a whole bone being engineered and incubated inside a patient’s body and transplanted.

Stem cells are the master cells of the body that go on to become every tissue in the body. They are a hot area of research with scientists trying to find ways to prompt them to make desired tissues, and perhaps organs.

But while researchers debate whether the technique resulted in a scientific advance involving stem cells, the operation has achieved its purpose and changed a life, said Stan Gronthos, a stem cell expert at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide, Australia. “A patient who had previously lost his mandible (lower jaw) through the result of a destructive tumor can now sit down and chew his first solid meals in nine years … resulting in an improved quality of life,” said Gronthos, who was not connected with the experiment.

The operation was done by Dr. Patrick Warnke, a reconstructive facial surgeon at the University of Kiel in Germany. The patient, a 56-year-old man, had his lower jaw and half his tongue cut out almost a decade ago after getting mouth cancer. Since then, he had only been able to slurp soft food or soup from a spoon.

In similar cases, doctors can sometimes replace a lost jawbone by cutting out a piece of bone from the lower leg or from the hip and chiseling it to fit into the mouth. This patient could not have that procedure because he was taking a potent blood thinner for another condition and doctors considered it too dangerous to harvest bone from elsewhere in his body since extraction leaves a hole where the bone is taken, creating an extra risk of bleeding.

Artificial jaws made from plastic or other materials are not used because they pose too much of a risk of infection.

“He demanded reconstruction,” Warnke said. “This patient was really sick of living.”

Warnke and his group began by creating a virtual jaw on a computer, after making a three-dimensional scan of the patient’s mouth. The information was used to create a thin titanium micro-mesh cage. Several cow-derived pure bone mineral blocks the size of sugar lumps where then put inside the structure, along with a human growth factor that builds bone and a large squirt of blood extracted from the man’s bone marrow, which contains stem cells.

The surgeons then implanted the mesh cage and its contents into the muscle below the patient’s right shoulder blade. He was given no drugs, other than routine antibiotics to prevent infection from the surgery. The implant was left in for seven weeks, when scans showed new bone formation. It was removed about eight weeks ago, along with some surrounding muscle and blood vessels, put in the man’s mouth and connected to the blood vessels in his neck.

Scans showed new bone continued to form after the transplant.

Four weeks after the operation, the man ate a German sausage sandwich, his first real meal in nine years. He eats steak now, but complains to his doctor that because he has no teeth he has to cut it into such small pieces that by the time he gets to the end of the steak, it’s cold. He has reported no pain or any other difficulties associated with the transplant, Warnke said, adding that he hopes to be able to remove the mesh and implant teeth in the new jaw about a year from now.

Paul Brown, head of the Center for Tissue Regeneration Science at University College in London, said it’s not clear any major scientific ground has been broken, and tests may not be able to show whether the new bone came from stem cells, rather than from the growth factor alone. The operation put established techniques together, resembling a well-known experiment in which University of Massachusetts scientists grew a human ear using a mold on the back of a mouse in 1995, he said.

“If you put loads of blocks of bone mineral into a hole and you induce cellular activity by putting in growth factors, it’s a standard approach that people have used to induce the body’s own response,” said Brown, who was not connected with the study. “Clearly some of them are going to work and it sounds like for this patient, this has worked.”

Biopsies of the jaw bone could later provide some answers on the quality of the bone, experts said.

“Just making the gross tissue shape right isn’t really the problem,” Brown said. “It’s what the shape of the tissue is at the microscopic and ultramicroscopic level. That’s the architecture which is so tricky and which is what gives function.”

August, 2004|Archive|

Gates Contributes to Stem Cell Campaign

  • 8/25/2004
  • Reported on Forbes.com
  • Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates contributed $400,000 to the campaign backing a California ballot measure that would make billions of dollars available for human embryonic stem cell research and cloning projects in the state, according to campaign records.

Gates is the latest billionaire to contribute to a campaign that has amassed more than $12 million in support of Proposition 71, which would have the state borrow $3 billion to fund the controversial research over 10 years. Cloning projects solely for research would be funded, but cloning programs to create babies would be barred.

Only two California measures on the Nov. 2 ballot, each related to gambling, have attracted more campaign contributions.

EBay Inc. founder Omar Omidyar and his wife have contributed $1 million in support of Proposition 71, as have billionaire savings and loan executives Marion and Herbert Sandler. Venture capitalists, Hollywood celebrities and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have also made big contributions to the campaign.

“Bill believes in the promise of science and research and development to create new ways to improve health and well being around the world,” said Joe Cerrell, a Gates’ family spokesman.

The Yes on 71 campaign declines as a matter of policy to discuss individual campaign contributions.

The $27 billion Gates Foundation is one of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations dedicated to curing diseases.

The campaign to defeat Proposition 71 has garnered just $15,000 in contributions.

Human embryonic stem cells are created in the first days after conception and turn into all the cells, tissues and organs that make up a human body.

Many scientists believe stem cells hold vast promise for treating an array of diseases from diabetes to Parkinson’s. Stem cells can potentially grow into any type of human tissue and scientists hope to be able to direct the blank cells to grow into specific cell types needed for transplant.

Stem cells are harvested from days-old embryos, which are destroyed in the process. That’s why many conservative groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, oppose the research.

Stem cells were first discovered in 1997 and even the research’s most enthusiastic supporters concede that medicines created with stem cells are still many years away.

OCF Note: OK guys…..OCF could use a little bit of your benevolent involvement. How about taking a look!!!

August, 2004|Archive|

Long-term Outcomes of Submandibular Gland Transfer for Prevention of Postradiation Xerostomia

  • 8/24/2004
  • See below for authors
  • Journal of Otolaryngology & Head Neck Surgery

Background: Xerostomia is a permanent and devastating sequela of head and neck irradiation, and its numerous consequences affect most aspects of the patient’s life. A new method of preserving and protecting a single submandibular gland from radiation damage through the Seikaly-Jha procedure (SJP) has recently been described.

Objective: To report the long-term outcomes of the SJP.

Design: Inception cohort.

Patients: The trial was conducted between February 1, 1999, and February 1, 2002. All patients were followed up through the head and neck cancer clinic at the Cross Cancer Institute. All data were collected by a dedicated research nurse. Salivary function was evaluated at regular intervals with salivary flow studies and questionnaires.

Results: Ninety-six patients were enrolled in the study, and 38 had a minimum of 2 years’ follow-up. The cohort of 38 patients was composed of 2 groups: 26 patients had preservation of one submandibular gland through the SJP, while the remaining 12 did not. Salivary flow was preserved in the SJP group, in which 83% of patients reported normal amounts of saliva 2 years after radiotherapy, compared with none in the SJP group. There were no disease recurrences on the side of the transferred gland or in the submental space. There were no surgical complications attributed to the transfer procedure.

Conclusions: The SJP prevented xerostomia in 83% of the study patients. The approach appears to be oncologically sound and safe.

From the Divisions of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (Drs Seikaly, Harris, and Liu) and General Surgery (Dr Williams), Department of Dentistry (Drs McGaw and Wolfaardt), and Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine (Dr Rieger), University of Alberta; Division of Surgical Oncology (Dr Seikaly and Ms Barnaby) and Departments of Radiation Oncology (Dr Jha) and Epidemiology (Mr Hanson), Cross Cancer Institute; and Craniofacial Osseointegration and Maxillofacial Prosthetic Rehabilitation Unit (Drs Seikaly, Rieger, and Wolfaardt); Edmonton, Alberta.

Source: Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004;130:956-961.

August, 2004|Archive|

Turkmen Leader Orders People to Stop Chewing Chicken Crap

  • 8/23/2004
  • Moscow, Russia
  • The Moscow News

The president on Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, has issued a decree banning his people to chew nas in common places, Russia’s news agency Interfax reported on Friday. Nas or naswai is the country’s staple drug, made of tobacco, slacked lime and chicken excrement. People chew nas for its mild narcotic and stimulating qualities. According to medical reports, about 80 percent of Central Asian people diagnosed with throat cancer chew nas in their life.

Niyazov’s decree, published on Friday, forbids to consume nas in ministries and public institutions, at all enterprises and organizations, in military units and border guard posts in educational and children’s establishments, in theaters, in public and private transport, in parks and shops. The list of the places gives the rough impression of how spread the habit is. The decree also banned selling nas everywhere except for specially assigned places — usually cattle markets.

Those who violate the decree will face fine of two minimum wages — 500 thousand manat ($85). Illegal nas traders will be fined $170.

OCF Note: We don’t make this stuff up folks (like the title of this authentic news article), we just report and post the news as we find it……..

August, 2004|Archive|

A Saliva Test for oral cancer

  • 8/19/2004
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Johns Hopkins news release

New Saliva Test Helps Detect Head and Neck Cancer in Early Stages

A new noninvasive DNA test has been developed that simply swabs the mouth to diagnose head and neck cancer. The test could improve early detection of head and neck cancer, which would improve patient’s survival and reduce the need for radiation therapy, chemotherapy and extensive surgery.

“The test has been developed to detect head and neck cancer at an early stage,” said David Sidransky, MD, director of head and neck cancer research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, one of the researchers studying the new test.

“If you look at oral cancer, about half of them are diagnosed at very advanced stages, so clearly, they’re not being diagnosed at an early stage.”

The test works by first swabbing the entire area of the inside of the cheeks and the back of the tongue. Then the patient rinses with a solution and spits it out. Then the swab and the rinse are mixed together so as many cells as possible are obtained, he added. “The more cells we have, the better the genetic test is,” Dr. Sidransky explained.

First Phases of Testing
In the first phase of the study, Dr. Sidransky and colleagues tested cells from the saliva of 21 patients who already had head and neck cancer and 22 cancer-free patients. They found genetic “clonal markers” in the cells of 71 percent of cancer patients compared to none of the cancer-free patients, indicating the test was accurate in detecting the markers. Dr. Sidransky said in further studies of additional patients, 80 percent of cancer patients have been found to have the clonal markers.

“These are just feasibility studies to see how well the test is performing,” Dr. Sidransky explained. Once the clonal markers are found, the test is 100 percent effective, he added. “The specificity or how specific the test is once you find [the marker] is 100 percent. That means that when we find it, we only find it in patients with cancer.”

About 40,000 Americans are expected to develop head and neck cancer this year, with as many as 60 percent of patients relapsing within five years of treatment. So the next step in the research process is to use the test on cancer patients over time to determine cancer recurrence rates, Dr. Sidransky added. He predicts the test could be used by dentists to screen for head and neck cancer, particularly in smokers, who are at greatest risk of developing this disease.

Dentists May Do Screening
“We need dentists to do the screening eventually because they are the ones who are going to see patients for their normal oral exams,” Dr. Sidransky said. “They will be in the best position to take the saliva.”

Promising Area of Research
Waun Ki Hong, MD, the chairman of the department of thoracic head and neck oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, is familiar with the study.

“I think this is a highly promising area of research for the early detection of cancer and also [for] the molecular detection of recurrent tumors,” said Dr. Hong. “This technique is a fairly noninvasive test, you don’t have to do any biopsies. If you find [head and neck cancer] in the early stages before patients present with a tumor, it can be treated without disfiguring surgery.”

The test may be commercially available in two to three years.

August, 2004|Archive|

New Vaccine May Protect Against Cervical Cancer

  • 8/17/2004
  • See end of article for authors
  • American Society for Microbiology

Researchers from Maryland have developed a new DNA vaccine that targets proteins expressed in cervical cancer cells. Their findings appear in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is found in more than 99 % of cervical cancer cases, which is the second leading cause of cancer death among women throughout the world. Consistently identified in HPV cancer cells, proteins E6 and E7 are the determined cause of malignant transformation.

In the study mice were immunized with a DNA vaccine encoding CRT (a binding protein with many cellular functions) and linked to E6 targeting HPV-associated lesions. Results showed a significant T-cell immune response specific to E6, indicating that a CRT/E6 DNA vaccine could also protect against E6 expressing tumors.

“We have shown that DNA vaccines encoding E6 can generate strong E6-specific CD8+ T-cell immunity and can control the growth of E6-expressing tumor cells,” say the researchers. “Therefore, E6 vaccines, and perhaps E6 and E7 vaccines in combination, may represent an important approach to controlling HPV-associated cancers.”

(S. Peng, H. Ji, C. Trimble, L. He, Y. Tsai, J. Yeatermeyer, D.A.K. Boyd, C. Hung, T.-C. Wu. 2004. Development of a DNA vaccine targeting human papillomavirus type 16 oncoprotein E6. Journal of Virology, 78. 16: 8468-8476.)

OCF Note: As we have mentioned in previous reports on the development of this area of exploration, these vaccines have enormous ramifications for oral cancers, many of which are associated with the same HPV virus strains.

August, 2004|Archive|

Charlie Watts’ Throat Cancer An Eye Opener

  • 8/16/2004
  • Canada
  • Healthtalk.ca

When high-profile Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts decided to go public with his battle against throat cancer, it did much more than shock us, it raised the awareness of this deadly disease.

Sadly, there was a time when celebrities like Watts would keep their health issues secret, out of the public eye. However, those days appear to be behind us and we owe Charlie Watts a big “thank you”, for his decision.

It isn’t easy telling the world you’re ill.

Charlie Watts has opened our eyes, it’s now up to us to ensure the continued funding of cancer research to find a cure for this devastating disease.

Watts, 63, was diagnosed with throat cancer in June, after he discovered a lump in this throat. He has been undergoing radiotherapy for about four weeks and is expected to make a full recovery.

August, 2004|Archive|

Actor Jack Klugman Lends His Voice to Oral Cancer Prevention

Three-time Emmy winner and cancer survivor, actor Jack Klugman couldn’t speak for more than three years after his cancer treatments. Now that he has regained his voice, he’s lending it to the Oral Cancer Foundation’s effort to educate the public through television PSAs about the need for an annual screening to catch oral cancers in their early, most survivable stages. The public service announcements began airing September 15th, and will continue to air in several hundred markets in the US through the end of the year.

Klugman, who is most famous for his television roles portraying compulsive slob Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple,” and medical examiner Quincy in “Quincy, M.E.,” recently made his return to television with an appearance as a medical examiner on “Crossing Jordan” and in live theater to rave reviews in the production of “An Evening with Jack Klugman.” Klugman returns to the stage again this month at the Falcon Theatre in “Golf With Alan Shepard,” directed by Skip Greer; and in the spring will play a movie director in “The Value of Names,” to be staged at New York’s Queens Theatre in the Park.

Klugman credits early detection for his survival of cancer and his subsequent return to stage and screen.

“When I contacted Jack about doing the PSA for the Oral Cancer Foundation, he responded immediately,” said Brian Hill, foundation executive director. “He said, ‘I’m your perfect candidate–I’m here today only because my doctors found it and treated it early… let’s do it!'”

But Klugman deserves credit of his own–for seeking treatment long before many others typically do. When he developed hoarseness, a common warning sign, he went straight to his doctors, who immediately diagnosed the cancer. His prompt action allowed doctors to successfully treat Klugman– through with surgery that included removal of his right vocal cord. The surgery left him without the ability to speak. Mr. Klugman’s recovery of his voice took over 3 years. But with extensive therapy, he was able to regain a voice that, while raspy and soft, allows him not only to be understood, but to perform. While still struggling in recovery and voice rehabilitation, he credits long time friend and Odd Couple partner Tony Randall with pushing and encouraging him when times were tough. Klugman states, “Tony told me that I had better get working on my therapy because he was going to see that we brought the Odd Couple back to stage in less than a year. I told him he was crazy, but with his encouragement and extensive therapy it came to pass.

Hill states that “working with Klugman was an incredible experience. This guy is a fighter, and he has a passion for life that is palpable. As an example of someone who has faced adversity such as the loss of his voice and come back to excel in his craft, he has become a real hero figure to me.”

The Oral Cancer Foundation’s public service campaign aims to help others survive and thrive as Klugman has. Approximately 30,000 Americans per year are newly diagnosed with oral cancer. Only half of them will be alive in five years. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of many we routinely hear about such as cervical cancer, prostate cancer, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma), reports the Newport Beach, California-based Oral Cancer Foundation. The death toll is particularly high because lack of public awareness, combined with infrequent opportunistic screenings for the condition. This results in a disease that in two-thirds of cases, is found as a late-stage, advanced cancer. Chances for recovery at this stage are significantly worse than if oral cancer is caught early. Death rates from cancers such as that of the cervix, skin, and prostate, have decreased as annual checks for those diseases have been adopted-this could also be the case with oral cancer, if the simple and painless screening procedure were to be adopted as a routine part of dental or physical examinations.

Media information Any members of the media that would like Beta SP tapes of the 30 and 60 second PSA, transcripts, or the PSA in other formats such as QuickTime for web use, may contact the foundation and receive one at no charge for unlimited use by emailing info@oralcancerfoundation.org

August, 2004|OCF In The News|