City of Hope doctor crowns health-themed film of the year

February 20, 2019 | by Maxine Nunes

Presant-Cary Cary Presant, M.D.
It may be the most important film award you never heard of — HOME, the Health-Oriented Motion Picture Excellence Award. Each year, this award is given to the movie that has made the greatest contribution to understanding the challenges patients and their loved ones may face.
 
The award was launched in 2013 by City of Hope oncologist Cary Presant, M.D., author of the award-winning book, "Surviving American Medicine," a guide to understanding the issues patients and their families must face. Shortly after its publication, he realized that certain movies can help people in the same way his book does — and the HOME Awards were born.
 
“My mission is public education,” said Presant. “And I feel that identifying prominent motion pictures can open important conversations for patients, their families and doctors about their health care.”
 
Previous HOME Award winners were "Dallas Buyers Club," a film dealing with HIV and research drugs; "Still Alice," whose title character has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease; "Concussion," which focuses on traumatic brain injuries in athletes; "Manchester by the Sea," about heart disease and the accompanying guilt, grief and depression; and "The Big Sick," which explores coping with life-threatening illness and the importance of a patient’s health care team.

THIS YEAR’S NOMINEES ARE …

Here are the HOME Award nominees for films released in 2018 — along with Presant’s tips highlighting the contribution each film makes to health awareness.
 
The Children Act. A 17-year-old leukemia patient (Adam Henry) must get parental permission for a transfusion before he can receive chemotherapy — but his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and transfusions are against their religion. A judge (Emma Thompson) must decide whether the boy lives or dies.
 
Presant’s tip: If you have to make an important decision about treatment, be sure your physician understands your feelings about the risks and side effects. You can also discuss your decisions with family members and friends to help clarify your choices.
 
Three Identical Strangers. This documentary tells the story of identical triplets who, as part of a clinical trial, were separated at birth and adopted by different families — facts never disclosed to the parents beforehand or to the children as they grew up. The triplets had no idea of each other’s existence until one of them is mistaken for his brother on a college campus. When all three meet, they become extremely close — but their story has a tragic ending, one that might have been avoided if their family medical history had not been concealed from them.
 
Presant’s tip: Know your family history, keep records of it and discuss it with your doctor. If you’re considering a clinical trial, read the informed consent document carefully and ask about the obligations of the trial investigator to inform you about risks, benefits, results and future findings.
 
Love, Gilda. This documentary about the life and death of legendary comedienne Gilda Radner hits every note on the emotional scale, from love and laughter to heartbreak. We get to know Radner as a child, as the star of "Saturday Night Live" and as a patient battling the ovarian cancer that ultimately killed her — a disease that, despite her ongoing symptoms, was not accurately diagnosed until it had reached Stage 4.
 
Presant’s tip: Radner’s life might have been saved with an early diagnosis, so if your symptoms do not disappear with treatment, ask your doctor what can be done next — and if necessary get a second opinion. The movie can also help people suffering the side effects of therapy and confronting terminal illness, and shows the value of support groups like Gilda’s Club, now a part of the Cancer Support Community, or City of Hope’s support group services.
 
Beautiful Boy. Steve Carell, Maura Tierney and Timothée Chalamet star in this powerful dramatization of one family’s real-life struggle with drug addiction. The story is based on two best-selling memoirs — "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction" by David Sheff and "Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines" by his son Nic Sheff.
 
Presant’s tip: Drug addiction, including the current epidemic of opiate abuse, is the third most common cause of adult deaths in the U.S., and addictions to alcohol, cigarettes and an unhealthy diet are also tied to disease and premature mortality. The lesson here is to never let these habits take control of your life, and if they do, seek help from your doctor to overcome them.
 
RBG. The unlikely charisma of 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg drives this documentary about her life, from her childhood in Brooklyn to her groundbreaking advocacy for women’s rights and her multiple battles with cancer. Her mother and husband both fought the disease, and Ginsburg herself has survived colon, pancreatic and lung cancer — never missing an argument until her most recent surgery in January (after the film was made), though she has been diligently keeping up with her workload while recovering.
 
Presant’s tip: "RBG" is a wonderful lesson in survivorship and an inspiration to patients who want to have a productive life despite cancer. If the disease has limited your quality of life, ask your doctor about side effects management, rehabilitation therapy and support groups. And if you have a family history of illness, getting genetic testing can help you assess your own risk and take preventive measures.
 
Rampage. The surprise nominee of the year — a sci-fi thriller, starring The Rock, Dwayne Johnson — is about a gigantic ape and other humungous animals that destroy Chicago. What’s it doing on this edifying list? Well, what causes these animals to grow to such monstrous size is a gene-editing technology called CRISPR, which may someday be used to treat cancer and other diseases.
 
Presant’s tip: In the U.S., CRISPR is currently in the early stages of laboratory study, but a few months ago in China, it may have been used in a clinical trial with humans, and it is far too early to know the outcomes. Abuse of new technologies can be dangerous — but when properly tested in Food and Drug Administration-approved trials, they have also led to many of the remarkable new treatments available at City of Hope, among them stem cell transplants, immunotherapy, CAR T cell therapy, and targeted molecular and genetic treatments. When confronting life-threatening illness, ask your doctor about new technologies, clinical trials and where you can get them.

AND THE WINNER IS …

May we have the envelope please.
 
The winner of the HOME Award for 2018 is — "Love, Gilda."
 
“We chose this film because Gilda Radner had the courage to share what she was going through, and people can learn from her struggle to push valiantly ahead as she faced her diagnosis, the side effects of treatment and the recurrence she knew she would eventually die from,” Presant said. “It’s also a really funny film. Gilda Radner was funnier than anything.”
 
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If you are looking for a second opinion about your diagnosis or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-4673. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.
 
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