Quarterly News Roundup: Unveiling New Research and the Realities of Crowdfunding in Cancer Care

We’ve got another installment of our Quarterly News Roundup for you this month. UVA has two big research projects in the pipeline, Virginians benefit from two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, crowdfunding medical care does not solve healthcare debt.

Using focused ultrasound to shrink tumors in breast cancer

VBCF has been following progress in focused ultrasound for a while, and the research is happening close to home. Focused ultrasound is the same ultrasound technology that has been used for decades, but turned way up. Researchers at UVA are using focused ultrasound to shrink or eliminate tumors in the breast, both benign and cancerous, to learn if it might be a viable alternative to surgical removal of the tumors. They are also now adding immunotherapy to the focused ultrasound as a potential treatment of the disease to make it easier for the body to recognize the cancer and attack. Our take: focused ultrasound has been studied for a long time to try and make medical treatments less invasive, we’re interested to see how the pairing of old technology and new immunotherapy medications works out.


Preventing cancer cell “escape”

Researchers at UVA are also examining what causes breast cancer cells to “escape” the tumor and spread to other parts of the body. They found that breast cancer cells “activate” a specific type of cell that builds connective tissues in organs and can use those cells to hitch a ride through blood vessels to anywhere in the body. Our take: we know very little about the how, when, and why of cancer metastasis. If we can figure out more pieces of the puzzle, and we can learn how to prevent metastasis, deaths from breast cancer will drop dramatically.


VCU joins UVA as a Comprehensive Cancer Center

Virginia now benefits from having two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Both VCU and UVA have gone through the most rigorous evaluation process that the National Cancer Institute offers to assess the quality of cancer centers. Our take: most states out west only have one NCI-designated cancer center and only three other states in the south have more than one cancer center. Kudos to UVA and VCU for their hard work in making Virginia a leader in cancer patient care. 


Crowdfunding medical care is not the answer

Resources like CaringBridge and GoFundMe can help cancer patients make ends meet while going through costly treatments, but it’s not a level playing field. The success of a fundraising campaign depends on the person’s network and their access to disposable income, which often means campaigns to benefit people of color are less successful than campaigns for white patients. Our take: almost half of people diagnosed with cancer spend their life savings within two years. Black families are more likely to have long-lasting medical debt after a cancer diagnosis. Crowdfunding multiple thousands of dollars is not a viable solution to fixing our country’s systemic problem of the cost of cancer treatment.


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