Oncologists shaves his head, plans to wear cancer-fighting gear during 5k

Friday, September 7, 2018

In 2009, the disease who rob the life of Senator Ted Kennedy.

In 2015, then Vice President Joe Biden's son, at the age of 46, Beau would fall victim.

In late August of this year, The Maverick, Senator John McCain would finish his battle with it just thirteen months after it started.

All three men diagnosed with a glioblastoma, a brain cancer that roughly 22,000 people per year will face.

"It doesn't discriminate," Dr. Simon Khagi, an oncologist and Director of the Brain Tumor Program at UNC Lineberger said. "It can affect anybody."

On Friday, Dr. Lhagi sat in a barber chair Friday afternoon, his locks of black and grey sprinkled hair on the ground. His head shaved ahead of the Head for the Cure 5K run/walk. A portion of proceeds raised directly aid research being done at UNC Lineberger.

"There's a lot of reasons why I'm doing it. Mostly to show solidarity with the patients who are going through this disease,: Dr. Khagi said.

Khagi won't sport his bald head at Saturday's race. Instead, he'll dawn a head device and gear that many glioblastoma patients do.

The Optune device keeps cancer cells from growing. Patients wear the device for 18 or more per day, adding on average 5 months to their life, slowing a disease the claims the life of 50 percent of its hosts in just two years or less.

Khagi, along with his colleagues and researchers at UNC Linebergers are punching back at the disease with groundbreaking research that could be just months from human trials.

The disease is a complicated culprit. Khagi explains the complexity with an ocean animal metaphor.

"You can kind of think of it like an octopus with a very large center more or less that has tentacles that grow throughout the brain."

Though the mass can be removed, the tentacles are often impossible to see and continue to spread over time.

One of the toughest parts of transition pre-clinical trials to human trials is funding. "We're able to generate a lot of this in the lab, but then translating it from the academic setting to the clinic setting the expense is enormous," said Dr. Shawn Hingtgen, researcher at UNC Lineberger.

Research, funding, and better treatment are all musts in battling this form of brain cancer, doctors say.

You can make a donation to the Head for the Cure foundation. Saturday's race starts at 8 a.m. for 5K participants. So far, just under $50k has been donated.