Since 1949, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has invested more than $1.2 billion in cutting-edge cancer research, funding nearly all of today's most promising treatments and bringing us closer to cures.
Our robust research portfolio supports the careers of next-generation scientists, advances research in areas of urgent, unmet medical need, and drives forward lifesaving discoveries through impactful collaborations.
In 2018, we supported more than 235 research grants and 20 Therapy Acceleration Program® (TAP) partnerships, a $188 million multi-year commitment.
This year, LLS dedicated $46 million to support scientific grants, including 87 new grants awarded in 2018 alone to researchers across nine countries, making us the largest nonprofit funder of blood cancer research. We invest in pioneering researchers whose work runs the gamut from basic, laboratory-based science to large-scale clinical trials, and many of our grants sustain their projects over multiple years.
Through TAP, we partner directly with biotechnology companies and renowned academic centers to help accelerate the development of promising therapies. This year, we invested $6.4 million of our 2018 research budget in our TAP program. Now in its eleventh year, TAP is currently supporting 20 partnerships.
While incredible progress has been made, challenges remain. More than one-third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after their diagnosis. By funding the most innovative research, we will achieve breakthroughs faster for patients who urgently need them.
In the past year, LLS’s Therapy Acceleration Program® (TAP) achieved an important milestone when two therapies were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat blood cancers with high unmet medical need. What’s more, both therapies are now approved for use in the European Union – highlighting the global impact that we are making in the fight against cancer.
Recognizing the tremendous potential of immunotherapy, LLS was an early supporter of research in the field and has played a pivotal role in driving its development.
From CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell immunotherapy and cancer vaccines to monoclonal antibodies, LLS is committed to advancing the next generation of these groundbreaking therapies to improve the lives of patients.
Eric Smith, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), is focused on optimizing CAR T-cell immunotherapy for myeloma. Despite recent advances, almost all patients experience relapse or treatment resistance. To address this, Dr. Smith is engineering CAR T-cells to attack a protein called BCMA (B-cell maturation antigen), found on the surface of myeloma cells. Dr. Smith is part of a larger initiative at MSKCC under the guidance of Anas Younes, MD, Michel Sadelain MD, PhD and Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD to apply the latest CAR T-cell technology across many different blood cancers.
Forty Seven, Inc., a Silicon Valley biotech startup in our TAP portfolio, is working on a promising experimental immunotherapy for patients with some types of lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and solid tumors. The therapy works by disarming a protein that emits a “don’t eat me” signal. Under normal conditions, the cancer cells would evade destruction, but in the presence of an antibody, immune cells ingest and destroy tumor cells. The program grew out of grants funded by LLS at Stanford University.
Shannon Oda, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is focused on enhancing T-cell immunotherapy for AML by studying how to overcome the obstacles that make some patients resistant to the treatment.
Robert Orlowski, MD, PhD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is leading a world-class team of researchers to develop new immunotherapeutic and targeted approaches for the treatment of patients with high-risk subtypes of myeloma.
Emily, a 32-year-old mother of three young children, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in August 2013. After a whirlwind of intense treatments over the next two years including chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and months of hospitalization, Emily relapsed soon after each treatment. In April 2015, Emily was given a devastating prognosis – doctors said she had six months to live. But then Emily received a glimmer of hope when doctors told her of a potential new treatment. In July 2015, Emily became the third patient in the world enrolled in Kite Pharma’s clinical trial for a lifesaving treatment called CAR T-cell immunotherapy that was made possible by LLS funding. The revolutionary therapy was a success – Emily has been in remission for more than three years! Today, she enjoys spending time with her family, and has been working with LLS to raise awareness about blood cancers and raise funds for groundbreaking research so other mothers do not experience what she did.
Cancer is not a one-size-fits-all disease.
By supporting advanced genomics and molecular research, we are ushering in a new era of cancer treatment that centers on giving the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.
Timothy Ley, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, who led the team that sequenced the first cancer genome, is using genomic technology to identify genetic markers that can predict which patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are more likely to relapse, with the goal of developing new approaches to target these mutations.
Stephen Nimer, MD, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami, is driving a collaborative effort focused on advancing knowledge of the small chemical changes that regulate gene behavior. Dr. Nimer and his team are studying how to target epigenetic abnormalities to develop new therapies for AML, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN).
Andreas Strasser, PhD, MSc, FAA, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia, is leading an ambitious project centered on apoptosis, the normal process that causes impaired cells to self-destruct. The team is testing new approaches to boost apoptosis in leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma and was instrumental in developing the first approved apoptosis-targeted therapy, called venetoclax, for use in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and, more recently, for elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Constantine Mitsiades, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is applying cutting-edge CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to the study of myeloma. Dr. Mitsiades and his team aim to characterize which genes play an essential role in the survival and growth of myeloma cells, with the goal of uncovering new therapeutic targets to optimize treatment.
Dedicated pediatric cancer research is needed urgently to understand these diseases, improve care and evaluate the long-term impact of treatment.
To this end, LLS is committed to accelerating the most impactful pediatric cancer research. This is just one part of our multi-pronged approach to address the unique needs of pediatric patients, which also includes education and support services for children and their families and advocacy efforts to increase pediatric cancer research funding.
Barbara Savoldo, MD, PhD, University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is developing an experimental CAR T-cell immunotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common cancer in children, that would include a built-in “safety switch” to help safeguard against potential side effects of the treatment.
Adolfo Ferrando, MD, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center, is studying the genetic mutations responsible for pediatric ALL, particularly those that cause resistance to commonly used chemotherapies. For the 15-20 percent of children whose disease relapses, new treatments are desperately needed. Dr. Ferrando is advancing critical knowledge of the mechanisms of resistance, paving the way for more precisely targeted therapies.
Soheil Meshinchi, MD, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is working to expand knowledge of genomic characteristics that are unique to pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most challenging childhood cancers to treat. His team has identified a potential biomarker for pediatric AML called mesothelin – opening the door to new targeted therapies for young patients with relapsed disease.
Eight-year-old Kaitlyn has had to deal with cancer for most of her young life. In fact, she was only 18 months old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Throughout all of her treatments, doctors’ visits and hospital stays, Kaitlyn was her brave and positive self, and continued to pursue her passion for cheerleading and dancing. “As a parent, if your child is scared, you want to be the one they reach for. You’re conditioned to think that you’re the brave one,” says her father, James. “But, when your kid touches your hand in that moment of fear and comforts you, you realize that they are the reason you’re strong.” After three years, chemotherapy stopped working for Kaitlyn. That’s when her doctor recommended a clinical trial for a revolutionary CAR T-cell immunotherapy, which LLS invested in for over two decades. In February 2015, Kaitlyn and her parents traveled nearly 1,500 miles from their home in Texas to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Pennsylvania, where she received the lifesaving treatment. Today, the third grader is cancer free, and back to cheerleading
Today, there are no means of preventing blood cancers, but thanks to advancements in genomics and our rapidly growing understanding of the biology of cancer, LLS plans to change this.
Early detection of cancers in people before they develop blood cancer or after they have achieved remission will lead to earlier interventions.
Lucy Godley, MD, PhD, The University of Chicago, is working to uncover the pathways that drive disease development in cancer-prone families. Once considered extremely rare, inherited forms of leukemia and lymphoma are much more common than previously thought. Discovery of these pathways will allow researchers to devise strategies to delay cancer progression or prevent it altogether.
Irene Ghobrial, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is focused on transforming the treatment of myeloma through the early detection of precursor blood conditions. Dr. Ghobrial has received numerous LLS grants throughout her career as well as funding through TAP to support her visionary research on treatment strategies that can prevent these conditions from progressing to more serious cancers.
© 2018 The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society