“All you rich rock stars out there: get off your butts!” yelled Roger Daltrey, lead singer of the Who, to today’s packed lunchtime house at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. However, the only other wealthy rocker in the room happened to be Daltrey’s bandmate, Pete Townshend; the two were on hand to raise awareness for Who Cares: Teen Cancer America, the U.S. extension program of their two-decade-old UK effort, Teenage Cancer Trust.
Daltrey and Townshend joined teen cancer survivors and medical professionals on Monday to kick off Who Cares, and Daltrey was vocal about his cause. The initiative joins with hospitals to create facilities and support programs for cancer patients ages 13 to 24; as Daltrey explained to the audience, the organization began 22 years ago after he learned of a “huge gap in the health system” that offered no clinical recognition to teenage and young-adult cancer patients. All too often, they are recognized and treated insufficiently as either pediatrics or adults. However, as Daltrey noted, teenagers often suffer the most aggressive and rarest forms of cancers and are diagnosed later.
At the luncheon, Daltrey spoke passionately of Who Cares, which relies solely on charitable donations; he explained from the stage that the trust aims to provide age-appropriate treatment in the right environments. It creates communities within hospitals to offer patients and their families built-in support groups to “unload some of the terror in their hearts.” He emphasized that six teenagers are diagnosed with some form of cancer every day and that Who Cares attempts to share that burden; its first U.S. facility, the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Zone, has treated 16 patients since its establishment in California one year ago. Who Cares is also working with Duke Children’s Hospital at Duke University in North Carolina.
If results in the United Kingdom are any indication, concentrating on teen cancer is resulting in more young lives saved. The survival rate for teenagers who utilized the teen-centric UK centers is, according the Teenage Cancer Trust, 10 to 15 percent better than the rate for those who turned to the UK’s National Health Service. Daltrey noted that if any drug displayed similar success, the world would “throw billions at you.”
Daltrey’s earnest and lengthy endorsement of Who Cares was not without its moments of levity. In a press Q&A, when asked if the band might offer entertainment for teenage cancer patients, he raised an eyebrow and quipped, “We might kill off the rest of the hospital!”