Fundraising Spotlight: Dara’s Esophageal Cancer Awareness Run/Walk in Brooklyn, New York

September 11, 2019

When we first spoke with Dara about hosting an event in New York, we were excited to work together on hosting an event yet heartbroken to hear that her father’s battle with esophageal cancer was similar to our loved ones battle.  It is our hope that this event will bring much attention to the dire need for awareness, prevention, improved and routine screenings, innovative treatments and funding for esophageal cancer research.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is honored to present to you our 1st Annual Esophageal Cancer Awareness Run/Walk event to Brooklyn, New York.  The event will take place on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at Marine Park.  The event is being hosted by our lead event coordinator and New York chapter representative, Dara M. and elitefeats.  Guests may either walk or run and can sign up online by Friday, September 13, 2019 at 5 PM EST.  Volunteers are also welcome.   Click here for more information and to sign up!

Here is Dara’s story:


Our Battle Against Esophageal Cancer: Joe’s Journey

“For many people, indigestion, acid reflux, GERD and heartburn are ailments that can be treated with common over-the-counter medications. More severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux might require stronger drugs that can be prescribed by a doctor for as long as symptoms persist.

This was how my father, Joseph M., began his battle with esophageal cancer.

Even though my dad was a smoker and drank when he was younger, there were no signs or symptoms of any complications until ten years after he’d been working at a print shop in Queens, New York. Exposed to paint thinners, chemicals and other toxic fumes that emitted from heavy machinery at work, he came home every day wreaking of industrial substances.

His heartburn began around 2005 and was a mild nuisance, which he solved by devouring dozens of boxes of Tums every week. When he went to the doctor a couple of years later to complain of more painful indigestion, as his diet began to change because he couldn’t eat spicy foods or enjoy pasta sauce the way he used to, they prescribed pills like Nexium to quell the stomach acid and discomfort.

We thought his chronic heartburn would simply need continuous medication until the afternoon of Fourth of July in 2008, when we were in the city and on our way to see the Macy’s Fireworks display – a father/daughter tradition we had for several years. We went to a delicious chicken place that had some awesome cornbread! It seemed to happen so abruptly – as my father was in the middle of eating, food suddenly became lodged in his esophagus. We didn’t know it was even possible for food to get “stuck” in this digestive tract, but he couldn’t get water or any food to flow down to his stomach.

Suffice to say, our father-daughter day was cut short as we left the city and he tried to push the food down with more water, which only worked for so long. Eventually, the food that was lodged in his esophagus slowly dissolved and the scare of seeing my father not being able to eat was only part of the problem.

Another trip to the doctor – and explaining to a gastroenterologist what happened – seemed to rip open another bag of unwanted surprises. The blur began as my father was given appointments with specialists months after that Fourth of July incident.  X-rays showed that there was some type of obstruction and tissue inflammation in his esophagus.  By September or so, doctors finally ordered my dad to have an endoscopy so they could biopsy the cells.

There were all sorts of words and medical terms thrown around as my dad was scrutinizing and amending his diet – Barrett’s esophagus, esophagectomy…but I will never forget the day we met with a surgeon who followed up on the gastroenterologists findings. The day they told us my father had esophageal cancer. My reaction to this years later remains a numbing haze, even though I recall wondering what this disease was! I knew cancerous cells could develop anywhere in the body, but this heartbreaking news led to a slew of nightmares that me, my dad and I’m sure thousands of other families have had to experience after initial diagnosis.

At first, doctors recommended chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the cells and advised us that surgery was a last resort to remove the cancer and any infected lymph nodes. Before my dad’s chemo and radiation even began, his oncologist recommended my dad have a port-a-cath – or chemo port – placed in his chest to administer medications and blood tests. I will never forget how my dad went in for what was supposed to be a simple outpatient procedure the week of Thanksgiving for the chemo port but instead, as the doctors were inserting it into his body, the tube punctured his lungs.  Not only did he miss Thanksgiving of 2008 because his left lung had collapsed, his chemo/radiation treatments were set back by a few weeks as he recovered from the painful blow.

As many cancer patients experience, my dad endured rough chemotherapy treatments and his appetite – along with the cancer – was very slowly shrinking. He was ordered to have endoscopies every few months, which became a scary routine to prep for and recover from. We were told his cancer was in Stage 3 and that there was a chance he’d fight it – even after it seemed to go into remission for a couple of months in summer of 2009.

The hardest part of seeing a loved one suffer as they battle esophageal cancer is knowing that they can’t eat normally, even after rounds of chemo and radiation. Their diets completely change – if they can manage to eat at all – and losing weight becomes a major concern, as they’re not able to take in the nutrients the body needs to function. Drinking nutrition shakes and supplements was also sickening at some point.

Sadly, in early 2010, my father found that the cancer cells had returned. We also returned to the idea of surgery. This would ultimately involve, as the oncologist told us in detail, having part of the esophagus removed and surgeons pulling up and rebuilding a portion of the stomach. This invasive procedure would be two-pronged. Yes, it would essentially remove the central portion of the cancer and some lymph nodes, but there was also the risk of the cancer spreading post-surgery.

One of the worst aspects of having an esophagectomy, as I’ve heard from others with the same experiences, is not being able to eat for weeks or months after the surgery. If my dad opted for the surgery, he would have had to use a feeding tube for a long time and the recovery from the procedure would have possibly been ten times worse than continuing short-term treatment.

My father looked to me for direction – continue with chemo or go under the knife? I couldn’t honestly bear to see my dad having any more invasive procedures and by spring 2010, he painstakingly asked me to enroll him in a hospice program. What drove the knife through my heart was knowing he didn’t want to die and he didn’t want to become a statistic of a cancer that neither of us had ever heard of until 2 years before when he was diagnosed.

It was during this time, as my dad was provided with heavy medications at home, that I began looking up esophageal cancer on social media. I started reading other families’ experiences and diagnosis. It was truly unbelievable to me that all of us experienced this same journey – many only lasting 2-3 years before the battle became too much to handle nutritionally, mentally, physically, emotionally and medically. A lucky handful were able to say they were survivors after surgery.

Every story I’d read, and still read today, is filled with shock at how insurance companies refuse to cover some of the tests for esophageal cancer in its early stages. And then I question, can this cancer be caught early enough somehow to prevent or slow down cells from becoming cancerous? Are doctors ignoring the serious warning signs and pushing pills like they did to my dad before that doomed day which changed our lives?

1st Annual Esophageal Cancer Awareness Run NYC New York City Brooklyn The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research FoundationMy family got the call on October 16, 2010, a little over 12 hours after we had to place my father in a facility for hospice. I was only thankful that he wasn’t suffering anymore and he wasn’t fighting to stay alive.

Over the past few years, as I looked back on my father’s battle, I became a runner and subsequently found that it was rewarding to participate in 5K races for a good cause. I’d run races bringing awareness to ovarian cancer, another disease for which there is no screening, as well as testicular cancer.

However, after much research, I’d discovered there was little attention brought to any events focusing on esophageal cancer in New York City. With a growing number of New Yorkers being exposed to toxic fumes and work conditions, no matter how healthy their lifestyles are, I was surprised to find that no one was sponsoring an event to bring this complex cancer to the forefront of the public.

As I continued to read stories about those whose lives were taken by esophageal cancer, I noticed the trends in diagnosis, treatment and lack of awareness/education. Finally deciding that I wanted to help spread the word to more people in my city and give others tools to recognize their own health conditions, I scoped out an organization that could assist with my new mission.

I came across the Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation on social media and started 2019 with a simple phone conversation with the organization’s Executive Director, Christina. We also shared the same experience, as she explained the passing of her grandfather came after a similar struggle I’d gone through with my father.

With no races/walks, fundraisers or awareness events in my city aimed at esophageal, I proposed we host an event in Brooklyn to bring light to the lesser-known cancer. After a little more research, I decided it would be a great idea to find a race organization to provide the provisions for the event. Working out the details with elitefeats, a race organization I’m quite familiar with, helped bring the mission to life.

Fundraising for esophageal cancer awareness is more than just about coming to our event in September and running for a cure. Through sponsorship and dedication to spreading the word, my ultimate goal is to provide others with tools to make themselves and their loved ones more vigilant when it comes to their digestive health.

The “Esophageal Cancer Awareness Run/Walk NYC” will serve as a resourceful awakening for many New Yorkers who aren’t familiar with this disease. I’m also hoping it will somehow reach medical experts and specialists who often brush off those signs or are hesitant to diagnose something that can become more serious.

Stories like my dads are becoming more and more common and it doesn’t get any easier to recall the way his life ended. My passion now is to keep his memory alive by hosting this fundraiser that will hopefully help others write a different story in years to come.”



To sign up for our Esophageal Cancer Awareness Run/Walk NYC please visit:











ASGE Releases Update Guideline on Screening and Surveillance of Barrett’s Esophagus

September 6, 2019

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) has released its updated “ASGE guideline on screening and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus,” published in the September issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

The guideline aims to help clinicians understand the published literature and quality of available data on screening and surveillance in patients with Barrett’s esophagus; a precancerous condition for esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma.)  This document addresses several key clinical issues in this field, including the role and impact of screening and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus. As with other types of cancer, identifying this precancerous condition and early changes of cancer provides the best chance of successful treatment and, ultimately, improves patient outcomes.

Several endoscopic procedures and related technologies are used to screen and monitor patients with known or suspected Barrett’s esophagus. If changes are found in the cells lining the esophagus, various endoscopic treatment approaches are available.

This guideline addresses the utility of advanced imaging and sampling modalities used during screening and surveillance endoscopic procedures and includes chromoendoscopy, confocal laser endomicroscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, wide-area transepithelial sampling (WATS) and others. Table 4 contains a summary of the recommendations.

The document complies with the standards of guideline development set forth by the Institute of Medicine for the creation of trustworthy guidelines and provides recommendations based on the GRADE framework.

“We are hopeful that this current information will help guide clinicians in using the growing array of tools and technologies available to us to diagnose and manage Barrett’s esophagus, which, in turn, has the potential to significantly impact patient outcomes,” said Sachin Wani, MD, FASGE, Chair of the ASGE Standards of Practice Committee.

The full guideline is available here.

Barrett’s esophagus is one possible risk factor associated with esophageal cancer, which is one of the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the United States.  There are no routine screenings to detect esophageal cancer in earlier stages and symptoms (such as difficulty swallowing, choking sensation, etc…) often occur once the cancer spreads and becomes more difficult (if not impossible) to treat.

Learn the facts about esophageal cancer

-Esophageal cancer has increased over 700% and is considered one of the fastest growing cancer in the US.*

-Risk factors include:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD, acid reflux, chronic heartburn),
  • obesity,
  • poor nutrition,
  • tobacco use,
  • excessive alcohol use,
  • Barrett’s esophagus.

-As one of the deadliest cancers, esophageal cancer has an overall 5 year survival rate of only 19.2%.

-There are no routine or standard screenings to improve early detection of esophageal cancer.

-Symptoms often arise late, once the cancer is considered advanced or “distant” (spread to lymph nodes and other organs.)

-Stage IV esophageal cancer has a survival rate of only 4.8%.

-Despite these facts, esophageal cancer research is extremely underfunded.

To make a tax-deductible donation to The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, please visit:

Materials Provided By:
Journal reference:

Qumseya, B. et al. (2019) ASGE guideline on screening and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus. Gastrointestinal

Editor Note:

Content may be edited.


This post contains information from an article regarding recently published research and reflects the content of that research.  It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation who cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the data.


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FDA Approves Keytruda to Treat Esophageal Cancer, Squamous Cell Carcinoma

July 31, 2019

The FDA approved pembrolizumab as monotherapy for certain patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.

The approval applies to use of pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck) for patients whose tumors express PD-L1 — with a combined positive score of 10 or higher — as determined by an FDA-approved test, and who experienced disease progression after one or more previous lines of systemic therapy.

“Historically, patients with advanced esophageal cancer have had limited treatment options, particularly after their disease has progressed,” Jonathan Cheng, MD vice president for oncology clinical research at Merck Research Laboratories, said in a press release. “With this approval, Keytruda is now the first anti-PD-1 therapy approved for the treatment [for this patient population], providing an important new monotherapy option for physicians and patients in the United States.”

Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that begins in squamous cells of the esophagus. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales, and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.  Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is most often found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus, but can occur anywhere along the esophagus.

Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

The FDA based the approval on results from the randomized controlled KEYNOTE-181 trial, which included 628 patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer who progressed on or after one prior line of systemic treatment for advanced disease.

Researchers randomly assigned patients 1:1 to pembrolizumab 200 mg every 3 weeks or investigator’s choice of IV chemotherapy with paclitaxel, docetaxel or irinotecan. Treatment continued for up to 24 months, or until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

OS among three groups — patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, those whose tumors express PD-L1 with a combined positive score of 10 or higher, and all randomly assigned patients — served as the key efficacy outcome.

Secondary outcomes included PFS, objective response rate and duration of response.

Researchers reported HRs for OS of 0.77 (95% CI, 0.63-0.96) among patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; 0.7 (95% CI, 0.52-0.94) among patients whose tumors met the defined PD-L1 expression threshold; and 0.89 (95% CI, 0.75-1.05) among all randomly assigned patients.

Among patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma who met the defined PD-L1 expression threshold, those assigned pembrolizumab achieved longer median OS (10.3 months vs. 6.7 months; HR = 0.64; 95% CI, 0.46-0.9) and median PFS (3.2 months vs. 2.3 months; HR = 0.66; 95% CI, 0.48-0.92).

A higher percentage of pembrolizumab-treated patients achieved response (22% vs. 7%), complete response (5% vs. 1%) and partial response (18% vs. 6%). Median duration of response was 9.3 months in the pembrolizumab group and 7.7 months in the chemotherapy group.

Adverse reactions that occurred among pembrolizumab-treated patients with esophageal cancer appeared similar to those that have been observed among patients with melanoma or non-small cell lung cancer who received pembrolizumab monotherapy.

The FDA also considered data from the KEYNOTE-180 trial, a nonrandomized, open-label study that included 121 patients with locally advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer who progressed on or after at least two prior systemic treatments for advanced disease.

Thirty-five patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma expressed PD-L1 with a combined positive score of 10 or higher. Seven patients achieved response, equating to an ORR of 20%. The duration of response ranged from 4.2 months to more than 25.1 months. Five patients achieved responses that lasted 6 months or longer, and three patients achieved responses that lasted 12 months or longer.

In patients with esophageal cancer, the recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or up to 24 months in patients without disease progression.

Editor Note: Content may be edited.

Can Statin Use After Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer Prolong Survival? (AGA Journals)

March 29, 2016


“Statin use after a diagnosis of esophageal adenocarcinoma, but not esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, reduces esophageal cancer–specific and all-cause mortality, researchers report in the April issue of Gastroenterology.

Esophageal cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death in men and eighth most common cause in women, worldwide. Esophageal squamous cell carcinomas (ESCC) are the most common histologic subtype worldwide, but the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) has increased rapidly since the 1970s and the most common form in the West. Fewer than 20% of patients with esophageal cancer survive for 5 years.

Statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors) are cholesterol-lowering drugs that have also been reported to have anti-cancer effects. Statin use after diagnosis has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer-specific mortality in from prostate, breast, and colorectal carcinomas. Statins were also found to reduce risk of liver cancer.

Statin use has been inversely associated with the development of the histologic subtypes of esophageal cancers. However, it is not clear whether statin use after a diagnosis of esophageal cancer prolongs survival, or has different effects on EAC vs ESCC.

Leo Alexandre et al sought to determine whether statin use after a diagnosis of esophageal cancer reduced cancer-specific and all-cause mortality in a large cohort (4445 men and women) in the United Kingdom. They collected their data from the United Kingdom General Practice Research database, the UK National Cancer Registry, and the Office of National Statistics database.”

To read more about the findings, visit:


Microendoscope may eliminate biopsies for patients undergoing screening for esophageal cancer, study.

June 4, 2015

Rice University device nearly doubled sensitivity of esophageal cancer screenings

In a clinical study of patients in the United States and China, researchers found that a low-cost, portable, battery-powered microendoscope developed by Rice University bioengineers could eventually eliminate the need for costly biopsies for many patients undergoing standard endoscopic screening for esophageal cancer.

The research is available online in the journal Gastroenterology and was co-authored by researchers from nearly a dozen institutions that include Rice, Baylor College of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Cancer Institute.

The clinical study, which involved 147 U.S. and Chinese patients undergoing examination for potentially malignant squamous cell tumors, explored whether Rice’s low-cost, high-resolution fiber-optic imaging system could reduce the need for unnecessary biopsies when used in combination with a conventional endoscope — the worldwide standard of care for esophageal cancer diagnoses.

The study involved patients from two U.S. and two Chinese hospitals: Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing and First University Hospital in Jilin, China.

In the study, all 147 patients with suspect lesions were examined with both a traditional endoscope and Rice’s microendoscope. Biopsies were obtained based upon the results of the traditional endoscopic exam.

A pathology exam revealed that more than half of those receiving biopsies — 58 percent — did not have high-grade precancer or cancer. The researchers found that the microendoscopic exam could have spared unnecessary biopsies for about 90 percent of the patients with benign lesions.

In these images from Rice’s high-resolution microendoscope, the white spots are cell nuclei, which are irregularly shaped and enlarged in cancerous tumors (right) as compared with healthy tissue (left). Credit: Richards-Kortum Lab/Rice University


“For patients, biopsies are stressful and sometimes painful,” said lead researcher Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies. “In addition, in low-resource settings, pathology costs frequently exceed endoscopy costs. So the microendoscope could both improve patient outcomes and provide a significant cost-saving advantage if used in conjunction with a traditional endoscope.”

When examined under a microscope, cancerous and precancerous cells typically appear different from healthy cells. The study of cellular structures is known as histology, and a histological analysis is typically required for an accurate diagnosis of both the type and stage of a cancerous tumor.

To determine whether a biopsy is needed for a histological exam, health professionals often use endoscopes, small cameras mounted on flexible tubes that can be inserted into the body to visually examine an organ or tissue without surgery. Rice’s high-resolution microendoscope uses a 1-millimeter-wide fiber-optic cable that is attached to the standard endoscope. The cable transmits images to a high-powered fluorescence microscope, and the endoscopist uses a tablet computer to view the microscope’s output. The microendoscope provides images with similar resolution to traditional histology and allows endoscopists to see individual cells and cell nuclei in lesions suspected of being cancerous.

By providing real-time histological data to endoscopists, Rice’s microendoscope can help rule out malignancy in cases that would otherwise require a biopsy.

“While traditional endoscopy can rule out malignancy and eliminate the need for biopsies for some patients, in a significant number of cases the difference between malignant and benign lesions only becomes apparent through a histological analysis,” said study co-author Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy, professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine and director of Baylor Global Initiatives and the Baylor Global Innovation Center.

Richards-Kortum’s lab specializes in the development of low-cost optical imaging and spectroscopy tools to detect cancer and infectious disease at the point of care. Her research group is particularly interested in developing technology for low-resource settings, and the microendoscope was developed as part of that effort. It is battery-operated, inexpensive to operate and requires very little training. Results from the clinical study verified that both experienced and novice endoscopists could use the microendoscope to make accurate assessments of the need for a biopsy.

Clinical studies of Rice’s microendoscope are either planned or underway for a dozen types of cancer including cervical, bladder, oral and colon cancers.

“More than half of cancer deaths today occur in the developing world, often in low-resource areas,” Anandasabapathy said. “The World Health Organization and other important international bodies have called for increased global focus on noncommunicable diseases like cancer, and Rice’s microendoscope is a great example of what the right kind of technology can do to change health care in low-resource countries.”

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute. This post is based on materials provided by a Rice University press release, which can be accessed here:


Proton therapy has fewer side effects in esophageal cancer patients, study finds.

May 26, 2015

New research by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has found that esophageal cancer patients treated with proton therapy experienced significantly less toxic side effects than patients treated with older radiation therapies.

Working with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Dallas, Texas, Michael Chuong, MD, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the school, compared two kinds of X-ray radiation with proton therapy, an innovative, precise approach that targets tumors while minimizing harm to surrounding tissues.

The researchers looked at nearly 600 patients and found that proton therapy resulted in a significantly lower number of side effects, including nausea, blood abnormalities and loss of appetite. The results were presented on May 22 at the annual conference of the Particle Therapy Cooperative Group, held in San Diego.

“This evidence underscores the precision of proton therapy, and how it can really make a difference in cancer patients’ lives,” said Dr. Chuong.

Patients with esophageal cancer can suffer a range of side effects, including nausea, fatigue, lack of appetite, blood abnormalities and lung and heart problems. Proton therapy did not make a difference in all of these side effects, but had significant effects on several.

The results have particular relevance for the University of Maryland School of Medicine; this fall the school will open the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). The center will provide one of the newest and highly precise forms of radiation therapy available, pencil beam scanning (PBS), which targets tumors while significantly decreasing radiation doses to healthy tissue. This technique can precisely direct radiation to the most difficult-to-reach tumors.

esophageal cancer patients proton therapy new research study findings esophagus cancer patients

The National Association for Proton Therapy


Proton therapy is just one of several new methods for treating cancer. Others include:

  • Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, a precision modality for treating patients with particularly difficult-to-remove tumors involving the liver such as those from colorectal cancers;
  • Gammapod, a new, high-precision, noninvasive method of treating early-stage breast cancer;
  • Thermal Therapies, the use of “heat” in treating a broad spectrum of malignancies.

The treatment works well for many kinds of tumors, including those found in the brain, esophagus, lung, head and neck, prostate, liver, spinal cord and gastrointestinal system. It is also an important option for children with cancer and is expected to become an important option for some types of breast cancer. While most cancer patients are well served with today’s state-of-the-art radiation therapy technology, up to 30 percent are expected to have a greater benefit from the new form of targeted proton beam therapy.

This post is based on information provided by University of Maryland.


“Clinical Trials Actively Recruiting Patients With Esophageal Cancer,” The ASCO Post

March 26, 2015

By Liz Janetschek | The ASCO Post.  March 25, 2015, Volume 6, Issue 5

The information contained in this Clinical Trials Resource Guide includes actively recruiting observational, interventional, phase I, phase II, and phase III clinical studies for patients with newly diagnosed or recurrent esophageal cancer. All of the studies are listed on the National Institutes of Health website at

Read the full article, “Clinical Trials Actively Recruiting Patients With Esophageal Cancer,” The ASCO Post.