A Truly Outrageous
Omission

By

Leonard Zwelling

         Spoiler alert. This one is personal.

         Who says I cannot get personally affronted by the MD
Anderson leadership and remain silent? Not I. And, besides, if I did, would you
read the blog? Not!

         The Spring 2015 issue of Conquest
Magazine
is out. This is the high gloss, self-promotional propaganda rag
circulated by MD Anderson to potential donors, ex-patients and the like that is
echoed by similar publications emanating from most major medical centers. Our household is in receipt of such stuff from Duke, Sloan-Kettering, Ohio State and Dana
Farber. I expect the latter three bought a mailing list from the AACR or ASCO.

         This issue of Conquest
is called “Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them.” It focuses on cancer in the young
and the development of various programs in support of these youngest of cancer
patients at MD Anderson. This makes sense given that MD Anderson raises about
$200M in philanthropy every year and St. Jude, treating kids only, raises
$700M. You can raise a lot of money with pictures of chemotherapy-induced
baldness in children. Sorry if that seems injudicious or offensive but we are
talking outrage here and the outrage outstrips any offense that could be taken
from the last sentence.

The
Conquest cover is of a patient who
survived both Hurricane Katrina and leukemia and the legend to the cover speaks
of the Hospital School at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital and its
service to him and to the other young cancer patients.

Along
with an article about the school that notes among other things its origins in
2009 and its philanthropic funding, are other laudatory pieces about:

The
Warrior Pose and the Little Yogis program

Cancer
prevention in kids

A
young woman with lymphoma

College
kids with colon cancer

Many
of these articles focus on adolescent and young adult patients with cancer, a
largely neglected population often treated by adult oncologists along side
octogenarians or by pediatric oncologists next to 5-year olds while the teenager sits in a chair three sizes too small for him or her.

All
of the articles are excellent examples of how MD Anderson has changed in the
past 15 years to accommodate a host of challenges facing young people with
cancer. This is welcome progress indeed and MD Anderson’s leadership role in
this area is one recognized by the last Anderson President who championed the
formation of the Children’s Cancer Hospital within MD Anderson and oversaw its
growth and expansion into new facilities.

The
recognition of this work is long overdue and its utility in fundraising surely will benefit all of
Anderson as nothing raises money or Congressional awareness like children who
have lost their hair to chemotherapy, but who will live another 50 years and
pay taxes for most of those years.

Not
mentioned in this issue is the one novel treatment that emerged from MD Anderson
in the past 10 years primarily aimed at this precise patient population. With
all the deserved praise heaped on PD-1 inhibitors, the one immune therapy that
came out of Anderson and Anderson alone is muramyl-tripeptide (MTP) which
stimulates pulmonary macrophages to kill micrometastases in osteogenic sarcoma
patients and has had the first impact on the survival of these patients in the
past 30 years. It is a therapy widely employed all over the world but not yet
approved by the FDA for purely political reasons given that it is approved
throughout Europe, in Israel, Mexico, Colombia and soon in Kazakhstan and
Thailand.

What
is so interesting about a Conquest
issue focused on cancer in the young is that one person developed the
Children’s Cancer Hospital, promoted its school, advocated for supportive care like
the yoga program, currently leads the Adolescent and Young Adult Program, and
was singularly responsible for the clinical development of MTP.

Remember.
I said this was personal because that person is my wife of 43 years, Eugenie
Kleinerman. To publish this issue of Conquest
without a single mention of her work or her existence is an outrage the likes of which I have
rarely witnessed—even from the crew that purports to be Making Cancer History.

I
have only one thing to say to Drs. DePinho, Buchholz, Dmitrovsky, Mr. Fontaine,
Mr. Leach and any current Pediatric faculty member mentioned in this Conquest issue and/or knew of its
pending publication.

SHAME
ON YOU!

I
am not just angry. I am embarrassed for all of you.

Leonard Zwelling