Just two months after her passing, Olivia Newton-John is blessing the world with one more gift as her charity makes a major breakthrough in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Many researchers believe it’ll be the breakthrough pancreatic cancer patients have been waiting for.
The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, which was founded by the singer in 2012, is working on a drug that inhibits a protein called haematopoietic cell kinase (HCK). The charity has found that the drug may help improve a patient’s response to immunotherapy.
Not only that, but the drug has the potential to slow down the process of metastasis, which is when cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Since most pancreatic cancer patients don’t respond to anti-cancer drugs, the discovery acts as a glimmer of hope for millions of people.
Professor Matthias Ernst, director of the Australian-based ONJ Cancer Research Institute and head of La Trobe’s School of Cancer Medicine, was responsible for leading the study and while he is encouraged by what they’ve learned, he warns that the study is in its earliest stages.
Still, the professor is confident that the study will make its way to patient trials one day soon. ‘Because we work in the same building as our oncologist colleagues at Austin Health, our discoveries in the laboratory can be quickly translated into patient trials,’ said Professor Ernst.
Dr. Ashleigh Poh, Postdoctoral Research Fellow co-lead at ONJ, also showed optimism. “We hope to eventually translate these findings into the clinic and improve survival outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients,” she said, adding survival rates haven’t improved in recent years.
While immunotherapy is designed to reactivate the immune system – which is necessary when finding and removing cancer cells – pancreatic cancer patients don’t respond well to the treatment. The disease spreads quickly and is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.
With more than 4,000 new cases annually in Australia – and another 60,000+ in the United States – pancreatic cancer continues to compromise the lives of many. Outside of immunotherapy, the primary treatment methods include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
Olivia Newton-John Presents the World With One Last Gift
Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 but had a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and breast reconstruction to treat it. Unfortunately, her cancer re-emerged in 2013 and again in 2017. By then, it had spread to her lower back and progressed to Stage IV.
Over the next five years, Olivia Newton-John experienced widespread pain as a result of metastatic bone lesions. She stayed strong and continued to fight, but eventually succumbed to cancer on August 8, 2022 – she died in her home at the age of 73. She was an icon.
The actress and singer won four Grammy Awards and had five No. 1 hit songs – as well as two No. 1 albums. She created the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, based in Melbourne, in 2012 to help advance cancer research and now it’s finally starting to pay off.
Olivia Newton-John left behind her husband, John Easterling, and her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. Towards the end of her death, Newton-John was an advocate for medical cannabis to help ease the pain caused by her cancer. Her daughter, Chloe, currently owns a cannabis farm in Oregon.
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