All cancer patients, working to ensure they have access to quality affordable care.
Racial justice and equality for Black people.
Diversity and inclusion among our staff and volunteers.
We stand against hate, prejudice and injustice.
Along with you, we watched in horror the death of George Floyd and we feel outrage at the injustice it represents. As we witness nightly disturbing images of violence and unrest in our cities, we feel a range of intense emotions – anger, fear, confusion and sadness.
We are living through a very challenging time, and we can only hope it becomes a turning point for our country, one that leads to healing and greater justice, equality and opportunity for Black people. We believe that Black lives matter.
But hope is not a plan.
We all have our part to play as citizens to help our communities and our country heal and do better.
What we do matters. What we do can set an example.
We must continue to treat each other with kindness and respect.
We must continue our efforts to hire a more diverse staff and recruit a more diverse community of volunteers.
We must ensure that we provide equal benefits and opportunities across our entire organization.
But we can do more.
LLS has more than 70 years of impact for patients and families. Our shared sense of purpose among our staff and the cancer community at large, allows us to provide unique and meaningful support to patients with a blood cancer – throughout their diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
Communities of color, particularly African Americans and Latinx, have been hit hard and disproportionately by the COVID-19 pandemic, including challenges accessing healthcare and, now, due to the economic impact of the crisis, many face financial hardships.
Blood cancer patients in these communities need us now, more than ever.
We must continue to fight for blood cancer patients across the country, from all walks of life and all means. Despite the economic impact of the crisis on LLS, we must forge ahead for patients.
We are proud of our efforts to address the health disparities that impact people of color and other underprivileged populations. We serve them through our Patient Assistance Programs – like Urgent Need, Co-Pay Assistance, and Myeloma Link Program, a program that directly connects African American communities to free information and support.
Our Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC, works everyday with federal and state legislatures to address barriers posed by the cost of cancer care for patients.
Our 56 chapters across the country play a critical role in our outreach to underserved groups. And we are planning a health services research initiative - “Equity in Access” - to identify policies, strategies and interventions that have potential to increase access to healthcare.
But we can do more and we will.
We are looking inward, too. We plan to make this watershed moment an opportunity to be better as an organization. We will work to increase diversity among our staff and volunteers. We want to be the kind of organization that welcomes difficult conversations and fosters a culture where everyone can be heard.
Our varied backgrounds and experiences are our greatest source of strength, creativity and empathy. We don’t have all the answers today, but we are committed to working together as a leading patient advocacy organization, to stand up for our patients, and all people of color and underserved citizens.
As National Cancer Research Month (May) winds down, it seems timely to reflect on progress in cancer treatments. And that is precisely what we will do this weekend.
This is the weekend Chicago would typically be flooded with more than 40,000 researchers, clinicians, pharmaceutical company reps, media and cancer advocacy organizations as the annual host of the world’s biggest cancer conference. But like all other large events around the globe, the American Society of Clinical Oncology was forced to move their #ASCO20 meeting to a virtual platform. Beginning Friday and running through this weekend, researchers are presenting their latest findings from cancer clinical trials, and cancer professionals from every facet of the field are sharing ideas and pressing for more advocacy on behalf of cancer patients.
The Shadow of COVID-19
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing this change to a virtual format, a prevalent topic has been treating cancer patients amidst the novel coronavirus crisis. ASCO President Howard A. Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO, opened the meeting this morning with remarks acknowledging that cancer patient are among the most vulnerable to the dangers of this virus. Blood cancer patients are particularly hard hit. A study published in The Lancet and presented by a group of researchers on Friday showed that patients whose cancer was progressing at the time they became afflicted with the COVID-19 virus are at increased risk of death from the virus - more than five times more likely to die within a month.
Further, findings show that treatment with the controversial combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin is also strongly associated with greater risk of death. However, other scientists wordwide are now questioning the findings and data of this massive study so further investigation is clearly needed. (* Update: on June 4 The Lancet announced that the researchers had retracted their studies regarding hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine).
Burris also discussed a COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium registry comprising more than 100 cancer centers collecting data on a large scale of cancer patients impacted by COVID-19.
“The cancer care community urgently needs data on the effects of COVID-19, specifically in patients with cancer,” Burris said “How we improve the care we provide these patients and reduce the number of deaths and severe consequences associated with this disease are among the top questions. The registry contains data from patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and around 40% of patients in the registry also have active cancer.
As schools and education communities across the country have had to adjust to a new way of learning online, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients program (www.penniesforpatients.org), a science-based service-learning program for schools, has shifted in-person school learning events to a virtual semi-weekly STEM+ curriculum program to inspire the next generation of scientists and doctors.
Through an educational “Facebook live” video series on LLS’s Facebook page called Hero Squad Live, host Elizabeth Matthews, a campaign manager for the Arizona Chapter at LLS, often referred to as “Ms. Elizabeth,” provides a 15-minute learning activity for children on Tuesdays and Thursday at 2:00 pm ET.
Each episode features a different lesson and activity from the LLS STEM+ Curriculum. Children can complete each exercise along with Elizabeth, ask questions, and even submit their projects to be featured in the next episode.
“I am learning new skills as we go through this process, from implementing new software to being my own producer and video editor — it has been a real exercise for my brain, “ said Elizabeth. “Knowing we are educating and hopefully inspiring the next generations of scientists and doctors really is the cherry on top.”
Elizabeth elaborates on how this idea came to fruition, “I have a performance past and I used to be a musical theatre performer before I made the switch to nonprofit, so with my performer skills, and this amazing curriculum, the idea was born. We know the world is changing, so we have to change with it."
She emphasized, “We have an amazing free and educational STEM that we have been sharing with our partnered schools and districts to help supplement education during these strange times. We knew we just needed to do more."