Director’s message

Dear Reader,

How people heal after a cancer diagnosis can be as different as the individuals who experience it. For some, it’s regaining the ability to run for a football. For others, it’s finding creative ways to face cancer’s emotional toll. And some find refuge in the hope that a revolutionary new kind of treatment will make the life-saving difference.

In this special issue of Synthesis, you will read about all of those approaches to healing. In our cover story, for example, you will meet Jorge Portugal-Herrera, a 9-year-old boy with Ewing’s sarcoma who endured a complex and disfiguring surgery to save his life — and have a chance to fulfill his dream of playing sports.

In “Writing for Their Lives” we introduce you to several people who have found their voices in a special writing class at the Cancer Center that allows participants to tap into their grief, fear and other emotions through writing and encouraging group discussion.

And you’ll meet Bobby and Jerri Hughes, who opted for a novel cellular therapy treatment for Bobby’s stubborn lymphoma. The couple has derived great comfort in knowing that CAR T therapy may finally be the treatment that keeps him alive.

This issue also introduces you to the exciting and unusual world of Justin Siegal and his work using online crowdsourcing to help find a needle in a haystack: the answer to a global carcinogen — aflatoxin, a fungus that infects commonly consumed crops and can cause liver cancer in many parts of the world.

We hope you enjoy these and other stories in this issue of Synthesis. If you have suggestions for future editions, please contact our editor, Dorsey Griffith, at