Singer and songwriter Charlie Lustman has become an inspirational voice for the over 12 million cancer survivors living in the United States. After surviving osteosarcoma, Lustman wrote a 13-song album about his cancer experience. He now travels around the country, sharing his lyrics and singing his message “to make cancer survival popular.”
Osteosarcoma is the most common form of primary bone cancer. The bone tumors usually originate in osteoblasts, which are cells that are responsible for bone formation. Osteosarcomas usually occur in adolescents and form at the end of long bones in areas such as the knee, hip, and shoulder; however, the tumors can occur in any bone.
Treatment for osteosarcoma usually begins with neoadjuvant chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. Surgery is then performed to remove the remaining tumor, followed by additional chemotherapy.
As with most cancers, targeted therapies are also being developed for sarcomas. For example, Ridaforolimus, an mTOR inhibitor, recently reached its primary endpoint of progression-free survival in a phase III trial in patients with either soft-tissue or bone sarcomas.
But these newer therapies weren’t available when Lustman received his diagnosis.
Man on a Mission
At a routine 2006 appointment, the dentist noticed an unusual lump on Lustman’s upper jaw. A subsequent biopsy revealed an osteosarcoma in the upper jaw bone.
Lustman’s treatment included 2 major surgeries and a year of adjuvant chemotherapy. Although he lost 75% of his upper jaw, Lustman maintained a positive spirit.
Previously a successful commercial artist, Lustman decided to make cancer survivorship his life’s work. He recorded an album about his cancer experience called Made Me Nuclear and adapted it into a one-man operetta.
Now, Lustman has embarked on what he calls “The Musical HOPE Campaign.” Lustman is journeying across America to bring his songs and positive survivorship message to hospitals, clinics, wellness centers, and schools.
At the recent 36th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress in Boston, Massachusetts, Lustman discussed his experiences and the goals of the Musical HOPE Campaign: