For more than a decade, Kansas City sports icons George Brett and Tom Watson have supported the region’s annual golf tournament to benefit amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. But progress in battle against the progressive, neurodegenerative disease moved slowly.
“I’ve been frustrated over the years,” Watson said. “Frankly, I was a little angry because we just couldn’t help these people who have this disease.”
But recent news brightened the mood for this year’s Joe McGuff ALS Golf Classic held Monday at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate in Overland Park. The event was named for the former Star editor who died of ALS in 2006.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Radicava to treat patients for ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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Radicava, an intravenous infusion, is the first new treatment approved by the FDA for ALS in more than 20 years. In tests, ALS sufferers who received Radicava experienced a smaller decline in their level of daily functioning compared to those who received a placebo.
Some 12,000 to 15,000 people in the United States have ALS, and Watson and Brett have lost close friends to the disease.
Bruce Edwards, who was Watson’s caddie through his eight major championships, died from ALS symptoms in 2004.
Brett, who made his debut with the Royals in 1973, became friends with Keith Worthington that year.
“He was a good athlete, a tennis player, a golfer, then one day I saw him with cane, then crutches, then in a wheel chair, and I asked, him, ‘What’s going on?’” Brett said.
Worthington died of the disease in 1984 and the Kansas City chapter of the ALS Association is named in his honor.
Progress highlighted this event, but Watson wants more.
“The cure is what we’re after,” Watson said.