Today, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2010 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ will honor the women who have lost their lives to the disease, support those who are currently battling the disease, and celebrate with those who have beaten the disease.
Today, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2010 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ will honor the women who have lost their lives to the disease, support those who are currently battling the disease, and celebrate with those who have beaten the disease. This month, medical doctors, research scientists, and ovarian cancer advocates renew their commitment to develop a reliable early screening test, improve current treatments, discover new groundbreaking therapies, and ultimately, defeat the most lethal gynecologic cancer.
Let us begin this month with several important facts relating to ovarian cancer. Please take time to review these facts — they may save your life or that of a loved one.
Ovarian Cancer Facts
Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
In 2011, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there will be approximately 21,990 new ovarian cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. ACS estimates that 15,460 U.S. women will die from the disease, or about 42 women per day or 1 women every 30 minutes.
Ovarian cancer is not a “silent” disease; it is a “subtle” disease. Recent studies indicate that women with ovarian cancer are more like to experience four persistent, nonspecific symptoms as compared with women in the general population, such as (i) bloating, (ii) pelvic or abdominal pain, (iii) difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or (iv) urinary urgency or frequency. Women who experience such symptoms daily for more than a few weeks should seek prompt medical evaluation.
Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have the disease.
Pregnancy and the long-term use of oral contraceptives reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Women who have had breast cancer, or who have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer may have increased risk. Inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene increase a woman’s lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Women of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry are at higher risk (1 out of 40) for inherited BRCA gene mutations.
There is no reliable screening test for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Pelvic examination only occasionally detects ovarian cancer, generally when the disease is advanced. A Pap smear cannot detect ovarian cancer. However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for the tumor marker CA-125 may be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer and to women who have persistent, unexplained symptoms like those listed above.
If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rate is 92%; however, only about 19% of all cases are detected at this stage, usually fortuitously during another medical procedure.
The 10-year relative survival rate for all disease stages combined is only 38%.
Help Spread the Word To “B-E-A-T” Ovarian Cancer
Please help us “B-E-A-T” ovarian cancer by spreading the word about the early warning signs & symptoms of the disease throughout the month of September.
B = bloating that is persistent and does not come and go
E = eating less and feeling fuller
A =abdominal or pelvic pain
T = trouble with urination (urgency or frequency)
Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.
Presidential Proclamation–National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 01, 2011
Presidential Proclamation–National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
NATIONAL OVARIAN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, 2011
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Ovarian cancer continues to have one of the highest mortality rates of any cancer, and it is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. This month, we remember the mothers, sisters, and daughters we have lost to ovarian cancer, and we extend our support to those living with this disease. We also reaffirm our commitment to raising awareness about ovarian cancer, and to advancing our screening and treatment capabilities for the thousands of American women who will be diagnosed this year.
Ovarian cancer touches women of all backgrounds and ages. Because of a lack of early symptoms and effective screening tests, ovarian cancer is often not detected in time for successful interventions. It is crucial that women know how to recognize the warning signs of gynecological cancers and can detect the disease as early as possible. I encourage all women to learn about risk factors, including family history, and to discuss possible symptoms, including abdominal pain, with their doctor. Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, a wide range of preventive screenings are available to women without any copayments, deductibles, or coinsurance.
So many lives have been touched by ovarian cancer — from the women who fight this disease, to the families who join their loved ones in fighting their battle. In the memory of all the brave women who have lost their lives to ovarian cancer, and in support of generations of women to come, let us recommit to reaching a safer, healthier future for all our citizens.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2011 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, health-care providers, and research institutions to raise ovarian cancer awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives. And I urge women across the country to talk to their health-care providers and learn more about this disease.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
Presidential Proclamation–National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2011, issued September 1, 2011.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms Consensus Statement, Originating Organizations — Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, Society of Gynecologic Oncology & American Cancer Society, January – April, 2007.
A study conducted recently at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found that experimental drug NVP-BEZ235, which blocks two points of a crucial cancer cell signaling pathway, inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer cells and significantly increases survival in an ovarian cancer mouse model.
Oliver Dorigo, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, Division Gynecologic Oncology, UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center; Member, JCCC Cancer Molecular Imaging Program Area
The Novartis Oncology drug, called NVP-BEZ235, also inhibits growth of ovarian cancer cells that have become resistant to the conventional treatment with platinum chemotherapy and helps to resensitize the cancer cells to the therapy. In addition, it enhances the effect of platinum chemotherapy on ovarian cancer cells that are still responding to the therapy, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Oliver Dorigo, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a JCCC researcher.
“Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs are effective in treating ovarian cancers as long as the cancer cells remain sensitive to platinum,” Dorigo said. “But once the tumor becomes resistant, treating the cancer becomes very challenging. This is a significant clinical problem, since the majority of ovarian cancer patients develop resistance at some point during treatment. Breaking chemotherapy resistance is a difficult challenge, but crucial if we want to improve long-term survival for our patients.”
The study, performed on cells lines and mouse models, appears in the April 15 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
Over the last several years, Dorigo has been working in his laboratory to develop new therapies for ovarian cancer. About 22,000 American women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, and more than 14,000 deaths are attributed to the disease annually. Dorigo has focused his research efforts on a pathway called PI3Kinase/Akt/mTOR, which, once activated, promotes ovarian cancer growth. The activated pathway also makes the cancer more aggressive and more likely to spread to other organs, Dorigo said, so targeting it offers great promise for more effective therapies for the disease.
In this two-year study, Dorigo and postdoctoral fellow Chintda Santiskulvong found that inhibiting two checkpoints of the pathway — PI3Kinase and mTOR — with NVP-BEZ235 decreased cancer growth, both in cell culture dishes and in mice with ovarian cancer. It also significantly increased survival in the mice, he said. More importantly, NVP-BEZ235 slowed growth of the ovarian cancer cells that had become resistant to platinum and helped to break that resistance.
“We were very encouraged to find that NPV-BEZ235 could resensitize the ovarian cancer cells to standard platinum treatment,” Dorigo said. “In addition, we found this drug to be more effective in inhibiting ovarian cancer cell growth than other drugs that target only one checkpoint, mTOR, in this pathway. We believe that NVP-BEZ235 has superior efficacy because of the dual effect on PI3Kinase and mTOR.”
The experimental drug is being tested as a single agent at the Jonsson Cancer Center in human clinical trials against other solid tumors. Researchers involved with those studies have said early results are encouraging.
John Glaspy, M.D., M.P.H., Co-Chief, Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology, UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center; JCCC Director, JCCC Clinical Research Unit; Member, Stand Up To Cancer Mangement Committee
“This is clearly a promising agent with activity in humans,” said Dr. John Glaspy, a professor of hematology–oncology and a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist involved with the studies. “We are still assessing its tolerability in patients.”
Dorigo said he hopes to initiate a clinical trial for women with ovarian cancer that tests the combination of NVP-BEZ235 with platinum chemotherapy, as he believes that the combination might be more effective than each drug alone.
About the UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center
UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation’s largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson Center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2010, the center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 10 of the last 11 years.
Estrogen therapy used by menopausal women causes “estrogen receptor positive” (ER+) ovarian cancer to grow five times faster, according to a new study being published by researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in the November 1 issue of Cancer Research.
The effect of ERT was shown in mouse models of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) ovarian cancer, which accounts for about 60 percent of all human ovarian cancer cases. Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers affecting women. This year alone, nearly 22,000 women will be newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and an estimated 13,850 women will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Monique Spillman, M.D., Ph.D., Gynecologic Oncologist, University of Colorado Hospital; Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
For the first time, Spillman and her team measured ovarian cancer growth in the abdomen of mice using novel techniques for visualizing the cancer. In mice with ER+ ovarian cancer cells, which were tagged with a firefly-like fluorescent protein that allowed them to be tracked, the introduction of estrogen therapy made the tumors grow five times faster than in mice that did not receive the ERT. The risk of the cancer moving to the lymph nodes increased to 26 percent in these mice compared with 6 percent in mice that did not receive ERT.
The team also found that the estrogen-regulated genes in ovarian cancer reacted differently than ER+ genes found in breast cancer, helping to explain why current anti-estrogen therapies used with breast cancer, such as tamoxifen, are largely ineffective against ovarian cancer.
“Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are often linked when talking about hormone replacement therapy, but we found that only 10 percent of the ER+ genes overlapped,” Spillman says. “We were able to identify estrogen-regulated genes specific to ER+ ovarian cancer that are not shared with ER+ breast cancers. We believe these genes can be specifically targeted with new anti-estrogen therapies that could more effectively treat ER+ ovarian cancers.”
“Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are often linked when talking about hormone replacement therapy, but we found that only 10 percent of the ER+ genes overlapped. We were able to identify estrogen-regulated genes specific to ER+ ovarian cancer that are not shared with ER+ breast cancers. We believe these genes can be specifically targeted with new anti-estrogen therapies that could more effectively treat ER+ ovarian cancers.”
— Monique Spillman, M.D., Ph.D., Gynecologic Oncologist, University of Colorado Hospital; Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Spillman and her team now will begin to screen current anti-estrogen therapies against the newly identified ovarian cancer genes to identify the [biological] pathways and compounds relevant to the treatment for ER+ ovarian cancer.
This study looked at the effect of estrogen replacement therapy in mice that already possessed ER+ ovarian cancer cells. It did not test whether the estrogen replacement actually could cause the development of these cancer cells. The study also dealt only with estrogen replacement, which is linked to higher risks of ovarian cancer, not combined estrogen/progesterone therapy that is used with women who retain their uteruses.
This research is too early to draw implications for use of estrogen replacement therapy in women, Spillman cautions. “We cannot make clinical recommendations based on what is happening in mice,” says Spillman, one of just eight gynecological oncologists in Colorado. “Every woman is different and needs to talk to her doctor about the decision to use hormone replacement therapy.”
To raise ovarian cancer awareness, Long Island’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate WLIW-Channel 21 will present the exclusive New York metro area premiere of a half-hour television documentary entitled, “The Whisper: the silent crisis of ovarian cancer.” The program will debut at 7 P.M. (EDT) on Friday, September 24 in the New York metro area, and will be rolled out to other PBS affiliates across the country over the next 12 months.
More than 13,000 women this year will be struck down by ovarian cancer, which is the most lethal gynecologic cancer. Ovarian cancer statistics are staggering; nearly three out of every four women with this disease will die because of it. Chances of survival can improve if it is detected early and confined to the ovaries. Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of women are diagnosed with early stage disease because there is no reliable early stage screening test available. Victims of ovarian cancer include President Obama’s mother Ann Soetoro, Coretta Scott King and comedienne Gilda Radner.
To raise awareness of this devastating disease, Long Island’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate WLIW-Channel 21 will present the exclusive New York metro area premiere of a half-hour television documentary entitled, The Whisper: The Silent Crisis of Ovarian Cancer. A preview trailer of the documentary is provided below.
The Whisper: the silent crisis of ovarian cancer — PBS Documentary
The program will debut at 7 P.M. (EDT) on Friday, September 24, with encore presentations scheduled for 10:30 P.M. on Monday, September 27, and 11:30 P.M. on Friday, October 1. The program will be rolled out to other PBS affiliates across the country over the next 12 months.
The documentary was made possible by a generous grant from the Sonia L. Totino Foundation and the Rocco Totino family. Mr. Totino, a New York resident, lost his wife Sonia to ovarian cancer several years ago, and wished to honor her with an initiative that seeks to raise awareness among women of the warning signs of ovarian cancer, and by doing so, reduce the number of women lost to this devastating disease.
Sharon Blynn is the founder of Bald is Beautiful & the host of “The Whisper: the silent crisis of ovarian cancer” (a PBS documentary)
The host featured in the documentary is Sharon Blynn, who is an ovarian cancer survivor and the founder of the Bald Is Beautiful campaign. Through this campaign, Sharon wants to send a message to women that they can “flip the script” on the many traumatic aspects of the cancer experience, and embrace every part of their journey with self-love, empowerment, and a deep knowing that their beauty and femininity radiate from within and are not diminished in any way by the effects of having cancer. As an “actorvist,” Sharon communicates the Bald Is Beautiful message through acting, writing, modeling and spokesperson appearances, and she continues to do patient outreach through one-on-one correspondence via her website, hospital visitations, being a chemo buddy and other such activities.
Other Bald Is Beautiful highlights include an international print campaign for the Kenneth Cole “We All Walk in Different Shoes” campaign, an international print and TV campaign for Bristol-Myers Squibb, appearances in “Sex and the City” and a principal role in Seal’s music video “Love’s Divine.” She has been featured in magazine and newspaper articles in Glamour, Vogue, Marie Claire (US & Italia), Organic Style, BUST, the Miami Herald and other publications. Sharon has also performed onstage as part of the “Off the Muff” collective, and she was commissioned to write and perform her one-woman theatrical piece “How Are We Feeling Today?” which saw its world premiere in Los Angeles and was presented in New York City. A QuickTime video compilation of Sharon’s past projects can be viewed here.
Beth Y. Karlan, M.D., Board of Governors Endowed Chair, Director, Women’s Cancer Research Institute and Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, David Geffen School of Medicine ,University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Karlan is a world-renowned expert in the field of gynecologic oncology, specifically ovarian cancer surgery, early detection, targeted therapies and inherited cancer susceptibility. She is a past-president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, the Editor-in-Chief of Gynecologic Oncology, and has held many international leadership positions. She is committed to both scientific advancement and enhancing public awareness about gynecologic cancers.
John Lovecchio, M.D., Chief of Gynecologic Oncology, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System; Leader of the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Lovecchio’s major areas of research are in uterine and ovarian cancers, and he holds administrative and leadership positions in regional and national professional organizations and has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals. Lovecchio is widely regarded as a leading physician-surgeon and has received numerous awards in recognition of his academic and professional achievements. In the documentary, Dr. Lovecchio offers his insight on ways to combat this deadly form of cancer. He is also credited as the technical advisor for the documentary.
Maurie Markman, M.D., Vice President of Patient Oncology Services & National Director of Medical Oncology, Cancer Treatment Centers of America. For more than 20 years, Dr. Markman has been engaged in clinical research in the area of gynecologic malignancies, with a particular focus on new drug development and exploring novel management strategies in female pelvic cancers. Dr. Markman’s many accomplishments include serving as Editor-In-Chief for the Current Oncology Reports journal and Oncology (Karger Publishers) journal, and serves as Chairman of the Medical Oncology Committee of the national Gynecologic Oncology Group. In addition, Dr. Markman has served on numerous editorial boards, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Markman has been the primary author, or co-author, on more than 1,000 published peer-reviewed manuscripts, reviews, book chapters, editorials or abstracts, and he has edited or co-edited 14 books on various topics in the management of malignant disease, including Atlas of Oncology and the most recent edition of Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology.
“Taking part in this program was a labor of love and concern for my patients,” said Dr. Lovecchio, who is based at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. “I wanted to make sure that women are getting the right information, and are aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. They must be alert to their own bodies and recognize that abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, difficulty in eating, and feeling full quickly may not be the norm.”
“I wanted to make sure that women are getting the right information, and are aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. They must be alert to their own bodies and recognize that abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, difficulty in eating, and feeling full quickly may not be the norm.”
— John Lovecchio, M.D., Chief of Gynecologic Oncology, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System
“Women should seek the advice of experts trained in this field and not think that they are being alarmists. Other medical experts and patients interviewed in this documentary are all seeking the same outcome — to make every woman aware of her own body and to encourage every woman to seek help if she feels that something is not quite right,” said Dr. Lovecchio, who was interviewed for the documentary along with Drs. Goff, Karlan, and Markman.
With a novel therapeutic delivery system, a research team led by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has successfully targeted a protein that is over-expressed in ovarian cancer cells. Using the EphA2 protein as a molecular homing mechanism, chemotherapy was delivered in a highly selective manner in preclinical models of ovarian cancer, the researchers report in the July 29 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. … In the models, the therapy inhibited tumor growth in treated mice by 85 percent – 98 percent compared to control mice. … [Anil] Sood said, “We are gearing up to bring it to phase I clinical trials. A lot of the safety studies are well under way or nearing completion and we anticipate that this drug will enter clinical trials within the next few months.”
M. D. Anderson-led team finds potent antitumor activity with a monoclonal antibody-chemotherapy combination
EphA2 is attractive for such molecularly targeted therapy because it has increased expression in ovarian and other cancers, including breast, colon, prostate and non-small cell lung cancers and in aggressive melanomas, and its expression has been associated with a poor prognosis.
Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology at the Univ. of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
“One of our goals has been to develop more specific ways to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs,” said senior author Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor and in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology at M. D. Anderson. “Over the last several years we have shown that EphA2 is a target that is present quite frequently in ovarian and other cancers, but is either present in low levels or is virtually absent from most normal adult tissues. EphA2’s preferential presence on tumor cells makes it an attractive therapeutic target.”
The investigators evaluated the delivery system’s specificity in EphA2-positive HeyA8 and EphA2-negative SKMel28 ovarian cancer cells through antibody-binding and internalization assays. They also assessed viability and apoptosis in ovarian cancer cell lines and tumor models and examined anti-tumor activity in orthotopicmouse models with mice bearing HeyA8-luc and SKOV3ip1 ovarian tumors.
According to Sood, who is also co-director of both the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA and the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at M. D. Anderson, the immunoconjugate was highly specific in delivering MMAF to the tumor cells that expressed EphA2 while showing minimal uptake in cells that did not express the protein. In the models, the therapy inhibited tumor growth in treated mice by 85 percent – 98 percent compared to control mice.
“Once we optimized the dosing regimen, the drug was highly effective in reducing tumor growth and in prolonging survival in preclinical animal models,” Sood said. “We actually studied bulkier masses because that is what one would see in a clinical setting where there are pre-existent tumors, and even in this setting the drug was able to reduce or shrink the tumors.”
As for future research with the EphA2-silencing therapy, Sood said, “We are gearing up to bring it to phase I clinical trials. A lot of the safety studies are well under way or nearing completion and we anticipate that this drug will enter clinical trials within the next few months.”
He added that his group is simultaneously conducting preclinical testing on other chemotherapy drugs to determine which agents might combine well with the immunoconjugate used in the current study.
“There is growing interest in molecularly targeted therapy so that we are not indiscriminately killing normal cells,” Sood noted. “The goal is to make the delivery of chemotherapy more specific. The immunoconjugate we used is in a class of drugs that is certainly quite attractive from that perspective.”
Co-authors with Sood are Jeong-Won Lee, Hee Dong Han, Mian M. K. Shahzad, Seung Wook Kim, Lingegowda S. Mangala, Alpa M. Nick, Chunhua Lu, Rosemarie Schmandt, Hye-Sun Kim, Charles N. Landen, Robert L. Coleman, all of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Gynecologic Oncology; Robert R. Langley, of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Cancer Biology; Jeong-Won Lee, also of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea; Mian M. K. Shahzad, also of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; Hye-Sun Kim, also of the Department of Pathology, Cheil General Hospital and Women’s Healthcare Center, Kwandong University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea; and Shenlan Mao, John Gooya, Christine Fazenbaker, Dowdy Jackson, and David Tice , all of MedImmune, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reported recently that symptoms of ovarian cancer tend to be relatively stable over time for women who are at increased risk of ovarian cancer based upon family history of cancer or BRCA 1/2 gene mutation.
When spoken by a doctor, the medical term “N.E.D.” – No Evidence of Disease – is music to the ears of an ovarian cancer survivor. A band of doctors, called “N.E.D.,” wants to be music to the ears of the general public when it comes to raising awareness about women’s cancers. …During the day, this eclectic group of highly skilled physicians perform under the bright lights of the operating room while caring for women who are battling gynecological cancers. By night, these physicians turn into artists who play a mix of rock and alternative rock music to give a voice to the needs, struggles, and triumphs of their cancer patients. … Victor Hugo, the French author of the classic novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), once said, “music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” The band N.E.D. believes in the same principle when it comes to the promotion of gynecologic cancer awareness and education through music. The N.E.D. band members will save many women’s lives throughout their medical careers; however, they could very well save thousands of lives through the educational cancer awareness message brought to light through their music.
Explanation of the N.E.D. Logo: Pink for Breast Cancer, Yellow is the Symbolic Color for Hope, Teal for Gynecologic Cancer; the Remaining Three Colors are Just Complimentary, But There Are Six Colors Total, One for Each Band Member. (Photo Source: Motema Music)
When spoken by a doctor, the medical term “N.E.D.” – No Evidence of Disease – is music to the ears of an ovarian cancer survivor. A band of doctors, called “N.E.D.,” wants to be music to the ears of the general public when it comes to raising awareness about women’s cancers. Yes, you read that correctly, six gynecologic oncologists want to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and other women’s cancers through their music. During the day, this eclectic group of highly skilled physicians perform under the bright lights of the operating room while caring for women who are battling gynecological cancers. By night, these physicians turn into artists who play a mix of rock and alternative rock music to give a voice to the needs, struggles, and triumphs of their cancer patients.
Most of the N.E.D. band members played in musical groups during their youth. Nimesh Nagarsheth’s interest in music relates back to his college days. As a student at the University of Wisconsin, Nagarsheth focused on musical percussion study, but later, due to pragmatism, he refocused his concentration on medicine. “I saw many really talented peers who worked really hard and were not getting jobs as musicians.” “Music has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was a child,” said Nagarsheth,. “But to be honest with you, I didn’t really develop an interest in medicine until I went to college.”
While in medical school in Oregon, John Boggess played in a band with other medical students in the 1980s to earn rent money, and he developed a small following. But, Boggess gave up musical pursuits to practice medicine. Joanie Hope said that she has been musical since she was a child: “When I was in medical school, I wrote lots of songs with medical themes, because medicine is, after all, about people and their troubles. When I was in residency, I didn’t have time to do much with music, but now that I’ve found this band, I’m able to tap into my creative energy again.” John Soper played in high school and college bands, and as an adult was a member of a local bluegrass group called Piney Mountain Boys, which split up in 1989.
Oddly enough, the creation of N.E.D. arose from an immediate need for entertainment at the 2008 annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO). In short order, the six gynecologic oncologists met and rehearsed in preparation for the gig. Notably, with the exception of John Soper and John Boggess, the band members never met, much less played together. They rehearsed one night, and performed the next. William Winter, a band member, said he and his colleagues were game to play for their peers, but noted that “[n]one of us are known for our music.” As stated in the vernacular by John Soper, the goal “was to not suck.” Despite the band’s hasty creation and short preparation time, the doctors who attended the SGO meeting loved the band’s music and rocked out on Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers Band songs. The band played the 30 or so classic covers that they rehearsed, and when the large crowd of doctors asked for more, the band performed the same songs again. “People were sticking around,” Winter said. “We didn’t get booed off the stage. We actually got asked to do some encores. We played everything we know. We had to replay songs.” Marsha Wilson, communications director for the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF), said ” “Everybody went crazy. They were really good.”
After receiving positive feedback for its performance at the 2008 SGO Annual Meeting, N.E.D. went on to perform at the First National Gynecologic Cancer Symposium and played at Arlington National Cemetery in front of the memorial to military women who died in the line of duty. After several more successful gigs, the seeds were planted for a band that would be devoted entirely to raising gynecologic cancer awareness and funding for disease screening, clinical trials, and patient education.
The Band’s Mission of Gynecologic Cancer Awareness & Education
“Do you ever see the words gynecologic oncology in print?” asked John Boggess. Boggess’ comment carries the underlying message that gynecological cancers are often overlooked, and reveals the overarching charitable mission of N.E.D. In a world where “me first” mentality is commonplace, and rock stars drive ultra-luxury sports cars, run with entourages, and make a habit of attending rehab, these multifaceted doctors simply want to raise the general public’s awareness about women’s cancers. “We think that people need to understand about these diseases and the women who have them,” said John Boggess. “So anything that we can do outside of the surgery we do every day in the operating room and in the clinic, we find to be an incredible privilege.”
In 2008, several band members were asked about the future potential of N.E.D. as a vehicle for cancer awareness. At that time, Joanie Hope stated that she wanted a future for the band that would “speak to people” through music. “I want people to listen to us at home so that our music and lyrics reflect what they are feeling if they have cancer, or someone they love does,” said Hope. Nimesh Nagarsheth responded, “I’d like us to make a CD. We could sell them at concerts as a fundraising tool, and we could put educational inserts about women’s cancer inside the case. Joanie [Hope] and I, as the ‘New York division of N.E.D.,’ have already written ten original songs, some with lyrics about cancer …”
Each original song written by the band was inspired by the doctors’ work with women’s cancers. Joanie Hope wrote a song entitled, “Rhythm Heals,” which is intended to inspire her patients. “It encompasses what we’re all about,” said Hope. “There are many ways to heal beyond what we do as doctors. My patients teach me that all the time.” Nimesh Nagarsheth wrote the song “Third-Person Reality” to address a doctor’s struggle to help patients dealing with cancer diagnoses. “It’s tempting to remove yourself from the situation and be like a third person,” said Nagarsheth, “but we have to overcome that because our patients need us.” The hard-rocking track “False Pretenses,” written by William Winter and sung by John Boggess, urges genuine communication when time is short due to a patient’s dire diagnosis.
Motéma Music & The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation Take Interest
Meet The Band: (Bottom Row) John Boggess; (Center Row, left to right) Nimesh Nagarsheth, Joanie Hope, William Winter, William (Rusty) Robinson; (Top Row) John Soper. (Photo Source: N.E.D. Facebook Page)
The 2008 comments made by Joanie Hope and Nimesh Nagarsheth in regard to N.E.D.’s future were indeed prophetic. Shortly thereafter, the band landed a record deal with Motéma Music, a New York record label that features world music and jazz musicians. Motéma artist K.J. Denhert is currently working with the band as a performance and songwriting coach. Mario McNulty, who has worked with David Bowie, Linkin’ Park and other classic rock bands, will produce the band’s first album.
N.E.D.’s first album is set for release in November 2009 during Gynecologic Cancer Month. Although the band wants to appeal to cancer patients and their families, William Winter said that they also want to reach others who may not be aware of the other types of cancers that afflict women. Winter’s hope is to “market it to anyone and everyone . . . and have them understand what goes on with women’s cancers, and the pain behind these things and what women feel and what cancer patients feel and go through.”
N.E.D. also receives support from the GCF. GCF believes that N.E.D.’s efforts are consistent with its charitable and educational mission. In fact, the band will be featured as part of a GCF national campaign, the Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Movement, which is scheduled to kick off in November 2009 in Washington D.C. Although the band has received support from GCF, additional monies are needed to fund the band’s CD recording and post-production costs. GCF is accepting donations and soliciting funds to support the production of the band’s first CD. Any future proceeds from the sale of the CD and live performances will be donated to the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) whose mission is to educate the public about gynecologic cancers and support promising research. You can help by making a donation to the GCF (marked with a designation for “N.E.D.”) through one of the methods provided below.
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Online Contribution (Through the Network for Good):
Mail your tax deductible contribution to:
The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation
230 W. Monroe, Suite 2528
Chicago, Il. 60606-4703 CLICK HERE for a donation form (Microsoft Word Document) to mail in with your contribution.
Call GCF at 312-578-1439 and donate with a credit card
Their Medical Skills Save Many; Their Music Could Save Thousands
The importance of N.E.D. and its mission to raise women’s cancer awareness is best understood through the eyes of a gynecologic cancer patient. Samantha Hill, one of Nimesh Nagarsheth’s patients, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a young age. Samantha says that when she learned that her doctor played in a rock band, she was not surprised. Hill emphasized that it is her greatest hope that N.E.D.’s message gets across to the general public. “You’re 35 years old and you hear that you have cancer, and you’re in shock,” she recalls. “I felt that he [Nagarsheth] could relate and I think music is a very important tool. And I think that specifically, ovarian cancer, there’s not much awareness and it’s really a silent killer.”
Victor Hugo, the French author of the classic novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), once said, “music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” The band N.E.D. believes in the same principle when it comes to promotion of gynecologic cancer awareness and education through music. The N.E.D. band members will save many women’s lives throughout their medical careers; however, they could very well save thousands of lives through the educational cancer awareness message brought to light through their music.
N.E.D. Band Rehearsal 1, December 7, 2008 (Motema artist KJ Denhert working with the band)
About Gynecologic Cancers & Gynecologic Oncologists
Gynecologic cancers originate in the female reproductive organs, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. Every woman is at risk for developing a gynecologic cancer. It is estimated that there were approximately 78,000 new cases diagnosed, and approximately 28,000 deaths, from gynecologic cancers in the United States during 2008.
Gynecologic oncologists are physicians committed to the comprehensive treatment of women with cancer. After completing four years of medical school and four years of residency in obstetrics and gynecology, these physicians pursue an additional three to four years of training in gynecologic oncology through a rigorous fellowship program overseen by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Gynecologic oncologists are not only trained to be skilled surgeons capable of performing wide-ranging cancer operations, but they are also trained in prescribing the appropriate chemotherapy for those conditions and/or radiation therapy when indicated. Frequently, gynecologic oncologists are involved in research studies and clinical trials that are aimed at finding more effective and less toxic treatments to further advance the field and improve cure rates. Studies on outcomes from gynecologic cancers, especially ovarian cancer, demonstrate that women treated by a gynecologic oncologist have a better likelihood of prolonged survival compared to care rendered by non-specialists. Due to their extensive training and expertise, gynecologic oncologists often serve as the “team captain” who coordinates all aspects of a woman’s cancer care and recovery. Gynecologic oncologists understand the impact of cancer and its treatments on all aspects of women’s lives, including future childbearing, sexuality, physical and emotional well-being, and the impact cancer can have on the patient’s whole family. But, there are only about 1,000 board-certified gynecologic oncologists in the United States. Women may need to ask their primary care provider for referral to a gynecologic oncologist if a gynecologic cancer is suspected because not all physicians are aware of the practice scope of modern gynecologic oncologists. Women can find a gynecologic oncologist by going online to www.wcn.org and clicking on the find a doctor button. This simple step may be the first stride forward to long-term survivorship and cure. It’s important to start gynecologic cancer care with the right team and a winning game plan.
About the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation
The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure public awareness of gynecologic cancer prevention, early diagnosis and proper treatment. In addition, GCF supports research and training related to gynecologic cancers. GCF advances this mission by increasing public and private funds that aid in the development and implementation of programs to meet these goals. For more information about GCF, its educational materials or research grants, please visit www.thegcf.org or contact GCF Headquarters by phone at 312-578-1439 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information on gynecologic cancers or a referral to a gynecologic oncologist or a related specialist, please call the toll-free GCF Information Hotline at 800-444-4441. For more information about women’s cancers, visit GCF’s Women’s Cancer Network Web site: www.wcn.org. Log on for a confidential risk assessment to learn about your risk for developing gynecologic and breast cancers. Comprehensive information about each gynecologic cancer and breast cancer is available on the site. The site also provides the opportunity to locate a nearby gynecologic oncologist, a step women are urged to take if they suspect or have been diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer.