September 8, 2022 – When Lynda Carter talks about her late husband Robert Altman, you immediately sense that this was a love affair that would last forever.
“As I’ve said many times, if you were a friend of Robert’s, you were one of the happiest people in the world,” says Carter, the singer-songwriter and actress best known for her role as Wonder Woman on the 1970s television series Years is known, who married the lawyer Altman in 1984.
Everything changed for Carter, Altman and their children Jessica and James in 2017 when Altman was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow disorder — about one case in every 100,000 Americans is reported each year — that’s detected during routine blood tests.
“Robert was never sick in his life,” she says in an interview. “He skied and swam and in many ways we were in the prime of our lives together. When he was first diagnosed, we didn’t even realize what he had. The catchphrase was that he had a rare blood disorder, not cancer.”
The family were told to wait and see if the disease would get worse, which unfortunately they were doing right at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This condition can progress from myelofibrosis to secondary acute myeloid leukemia (sAML), a rare blood cancer, says Michael Caligiuri, MD, a leading researcher in immunology, lymphoma and leukemia and president of the City of Hope National Medical Center, one of the largest Cancer research and treatment organizations in the United States
“This disease is chronic and changes slowly, but if it develops more acutely into a form of leukemia, it can progress rapidly,” he says.
In the acute phase, not much can be done for the patient.
“This becomes a life and death situation,” he says. “One would like to hope for the best, but one must also expect the worst in order to prepare the patient and their family for what is to come, so they can begin to put the person’s life in order psychologically and legally.” ”
Despite best efforts, Altman died in February 2021 at the age of 73.
To honor her husband, Carter is now donating her time and resources to establish the Robert & Lynda Carter Altman Family Foundation Research Fund, which works with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a leading biomedical research institute that is part of the city. cooperates hope.
The Goal: To accelerate critical research that improves early detection and survival of this difficult-to-treat blood cancer.
“I’m excited to be a part of this team and to know that I may be able to play a small role in helping other families who are facing the same diagnosis,” says Carter. “It’s exciting to see the advances these scientists are making, from genomics research to a universe of trillions of codes that could one day actually become a drug therapy.”
With the creation of the foundation, funds are made available to develop better diagnostics and better treatments.
“In many cases, this research will also shed light on other related disorders,” says Caligiuri. “Cancer is a disease of genes, and in most cases we don’t inherit it from our mothers or fathers, rather the DNA gets reversed in one of the trillions of cells in our body, like a misspelled word.”
What happens next is that the cell doesn’t die.
“Instead, it undergoes a nuclear reaction and grows and grows,” he says. “In this case, the first indication of a problem was myelofibrosis. This ticking time bomb lasted until it exploded in leukemia.”
According to Caligiuri, the goal of their research will be to develop a device that can rearrange this DNA or block the DNA changes so the disease doesn’t progress to leukemia or, if it does, “that we can turn it into a chronic condition . none acute that is life threatening.”
For Carter, this endowment is a very heartfelt way to honor her husband’s legacy.
“When I lost Robert, I had so many questions,” she says. “I wanted to understand why rare cancers are so difficult to treat and what advances in research or treatment have been made to change that. Robert was never one to magnify himself, but I think he would like that. I think Robert would be really touched by that.”