Duke Sophomore Calls Attention to Chordoma

Josh Sommer is not your average college student. In addition to being a Trinity Scholar at Duke University, receiving the USA Today All-USA Academic First Team Award, the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, the Coca-Cola Scholarship, and the AXA Achievement National Award, Josh was diagnosed with a clival chordoma in 2006, his freshman year at Duke.

Chordoma is a bone cancer that develops from leftover parts of embryonic notochord in the skull base and spine. Clival chordoma, which is the most frequent type, means that the cancer is located in the clivus, which is a bone in the middle of the head. The effects of this malignant cancer, when occurring at the base of the skull, are headaches, neck pain, double vision, and the paralysis of muscles in the face.

While only approximately 300 new cases of chordoma are diagnosed in the United States each year, Josh Sommer has brought national attention to the disease.  Since his diagnosis, Sommer has personally sought out a cure in a Duke oncology lab. In 2007, Sommer co-founded with his mother, Dr. Simone Sommer, the Chordoma Foundation.  

As there are currently no drugs which are effective in the treatment of this disease, and the survival rate is, on average, seven years, this cause is crucial to Josh Sommer’s survival. Even though Sommer underwent surgery to remove the tumor, in the “Our Story” section of the Chordoma Foundation’s Web site, Josh says, “For me, this is a high-stakes race to outrun my disease.”

In addition to organizing a nationwide collection of chordoma tumors, in order to grow their cells, and leading the first Chordoma Research Conference, Josh has raised more than $300,000 for researching a cure. His goal is to raise $3 million by 2009.

My attempts to contact Josh have been unsuccessful — if you happen to know him, tell him that I truly admire his courage and drive to find a cure, and as always feel free to leave a comment.


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