The Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson is remembering longtime proponent of cancer research Senator Arlen Specter, who passed away on Oct. 14 at the age of 82, after a battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
On the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Specter led the fight to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health from $12 to $30 billion to expand medical research to find cures for cancer and other maladies. He also supported expanding health care for seniors and children and proposed legislation to cover the almost 50 million Americans who do not have health insurance.
“Despite his own battles with cancer, Sen. Specter fought tirelessly through much of his 30-year Senate career on behalf of biomedical research and the special needs of cancer patients and their families,” the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) said in a statement. The KCC is a member of the AACI, along with 5 other Pennsylvania institutions.
“Sen. Specter was a dedicated friend to the cancer research community and he will be remembered for his unwavering support of programs that ease the burden of cancer on all Americans,” added AACI President William S. Dalton, PhD, MD.
Sen. Specter’s fights did not go unnoticed at the KCC.
In 2009, Sen. Specter was honored at the Kimmel Cancer Center Inaugural Ball with the “Spirit of Courage Award,” which is presented to an individual who has demonstrated great personal courage, strength and dignity while battling cancer and supporting others in their fight against cancer.
Also, on Monday, Elena Gitelson, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, spoke to CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi to provide insight on both non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another cancer Sen. Specter battled in the mid- 2000’s. Dr Gitelson was not involved in the medical care of Sen. Specter.
“Lymphomas are a large spectrum of different diseases,” Dr. Gitelson told CBS. It’s a condition that begins when lymphocytes that normally fight infection in the body’s system go haywire, she said, noting that in some cases, the Hodgkin’s variety can transform into the non-Hodgkin’s type, with both requiring specific chemotherapies.
Alternatively, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may develop as a new disease.
“A very important factor is how strong your spirit is when you fight cancer,” said Dr. Gitelson. “And I have been admiring his.”