Progress in Brain Cancer Treatment
- NBC News Washington anchor Wendy Rieger is starting the next chapter of her life in retirement, a few months after surgery for a brain tumor.
- It is unclear what type of brain cancer Wendy Rieger was diagnosed with, but the most common form of the disease is glioblastoma.
- Brain cancer treatment has come a long way over the past few decades, and there is one exciting development in the field that could be a game-changer: Optune.
“As you know, I just recently got married and my husband, who was a camera man here for 37 years, he’s having coffee and toast and taking walks while I’m coming to work! And he’s like, having a ball. So, I want to just go hang out with him and do other things,” Rieger tells co-workers and viewers during last Friday’s show.
Bittersweet news about Wendy Rieger. Our dear, sage anchor announced her retirement from News4 after 33 years. She shares why she’s chosen to write her next chapter. pic.twitter.com/Ui81mVoXyIRead More— NBC4 Washington (@nbcwashington) December 10, 2021
Rieger, 65, also made it a point to note that her retirement has “nothing” to do with her recent health issues. She tells viewers that her contract was negotiated two years ago, and it was solidified then that she would retire at this point in time.
While she will miss the more than 33 years she spent at the station, she had some words of encouragement to share upon announcement her retirement: “There’s a certain point where we need new chapters in our lives, and we can’t get too attached to something that we’re done, that we know, that becomes second nature no matter how much we love it,” Rieger says.
“We have to go out there and try to do something else.”
Saying ‘See You Later’ to Wendy Rieger, a Friend & Co-Worker
Of course, the NBC News Washington team, and all the viewers, will miss seeing Rieger’s face and having her deliver the news. In fact, many of her co-workers, as well as other Washington, D.C.-area journalists who have come to know Rieger, shared their favorite moments with her on Twitter while wishing her farewell.
Fellow anchor Jim Handly posted to Twitter: “How much are we gonna miss the one & only @nbcwendy Love ya my friend!!”
— Jim Handly (@JimHandly) December 10, 2021
Fellow anchor Shawn Yancy posted to Twitter that today is a “special day” at the television station, adding, “Wendy, you are simply the BEST! Thank you for being you.”
Today’s a special day at @nbcwashington! Join us all day as we celebrate @nbcwendy’s 33 years at NEWS4. Wendy, you are simply the BEST! Thank you for being you.
Retirement means we now have more time to get together for cocktails and good food!💃🏽🥂#Working4You #NBCWendy pic.twitter.com/57SgwZ278d
— Shawn Yancy (@ShawnYancyTV) December 17, 2021
Fellow D.C.-area journalist Tom Sherwood of WAMU 88.5, the area’s local NPR station, shared a funny photo of Wendy Rieger and co-anchor Jim Handly, one he noted was his favorite on-air moment between the two, adding: “Wendy is smart, serious, fun and friendly.”
— Tom Sherwood (@tomsherwood) December 11, 2021
Progress in Brain Cancer Treatment
It is unclear what type of brain cancer Wendy Rieger was diagnosed with, but the most common form of the disease is glioblastoma. She also had open heart surgery in October 2020.
After going through surgery over the summer, Rieger gave an update about her health. According to Rieger, the procedure removed nearly all of the tumor, but she will continue to go through treatment in order to ensure all signs of the cancer is gone.
“There’s just a lot of things that come into focus very sharply when you are facing a crisis like this that make you, again, at the unluckiest time in my life, I have never felt luckier so and I have to remember that,” Rieger told her co-host, Doreen Gentzler, at the time. “I’m just gonna go back to chasing life.”
Rieger also said her doctor in Pittsburgh was able to remove “99.99999%” of the cancer. Now, she is getting treatment at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. She did not specify what type of treatment she would receive.
Brain cancer treatment has come a long way over the past few decades, but there is still a lot more work to be done. However, there is one exciting development in the field that could be a game-changer for those battling brain cancer or dealing with tumors.
For glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer that is extremely aggressive and fast growing, there is an option for patients that may extend survival time — Optune. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved this treatment in October 2015; it is available to adults 22 years of age or older.
This tumor-treating therapy comes in the form of a cap due that attaches to a patient’s head, where electric currents run through adhesive pads. These currents disrupt the division of cancer cells, which can delay the disease from progressing and thus extend the survival time for some patients.
The life expectancy of most patients with glioblastoma currently stands at two years, but during clinical trials using Optune alongside standard treatment, researchers found that this rate went up. For about half of the patients, two more years were added to their median survival, and a third of patients saw their survival rates go up by five more years.
“I just want to emphasize to patients that when I first started doing this in 1999, there were maybe less than 5 percent of patients with this disease that were alive two years,” Dr. Suriya Jeyapalan, a neuro-oncologist at Tufts Medical Center, tells SurvivorNet during a previous interview.
“Now we’re getting out to maybe a third of patients alive at five years. This is not your father’s brain tumor, and I want to sort of give a message of hope to patients. In the future we’ll add to these treatments and make it even better.”
Contributing: Shelby Black