|Actor Mark Harmon|
Ever since he appeared on the acclaimed 1980's hospital drama “St. Elsewhere,” Mark Harmon has been among my favorite actors. Harmon, who for the last decade has starred on "NCIS," the highest rated show on television, brings integrity and a quiet strength to every film and TV role. My favorite Harmon performance was in an obscure 1988 movie called “Stealing Home,” a poignant, unapologetically sentimental film about baseball, love, loss, and redemption. Cynics dismissed the movie, but I loved it. Harmon is outstanding as Billy Wyatt, an aimless, washed up thirtysomething baseball player who squanders a real shot with the Philadelphia Phillies and is called home when he gets some tragic news about a beloved childhood friend.
In addition to being an accomplished yet still underrated actor, Harmon, who played quarterback at UCLA and has been married to actress Pam Dawber of “Mork and Mindy” for 26 years, is also a champion for cancer patients. He appears in a new public service announcement whose goal is to increase awareness of cancer immunotherapy, which mobilizes one's own immune system to fight cancer. As some of you may know, I am alive today because of an immunotherapy - a radio-immunotherapy clinical trial, to be precise.
Harmon's new PSA, from Stand Up to Cancer and the Cancer Research Institute, debuts today. Harmon says he appears on behalf of friends who have battled cancer.
"Cancer research is extremely important to me," he said in a statement. "I don't know anyone who hasn't been affected by cancer in some way or another. I'm here ... to highlight the unbelievable work that CRI and SU2C are doing to advance the field of cancer immunology."
It's really important to get high-profile stars like Harmon behind this research. It obviously helps increase awareness, and that can only lead to good things. One of the most attractive things about immunotherapy treatments, which train the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells, is that they are typically less toxic than traditional chemotherapy drugs, which kill healthy cells along with the cancer cells. That means potentially fewer side effects and a much easier treatment experience for the patient.
Two new studies at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference involving immunotherapy showed what society President Dr. Sandra Swain called "significant progress."
In December, and the Cancer Research Institute announced the formation of a so-called Cancer Immunology Translational Research Dream Team to study the relationship between cancer and the immune system. The three-year, $10 million study will allow scientists from eight reputable research institutions to delve into this relatively new field.
"The research that CRI and SU2C are doing shows us that with the help of immunotherapy, our bodies' own natural defenses can fight cancer," Harmon said. "We've all seen people suffer through different kinds of treatments for this disease, but these advances in immunotherapy have the potential to significantly change cancer treatment as we know it. It's important for people to learn about these discoveries."
Well said, Mark.