For the second year in a row, high school students across the country are redefining what it means to be philanthropic in today’s youth culture. Through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) newest innovation in fundraising, Students of the Year, more than 600 motivated high school students raised significant funds for LLS’s cutting-edge cancer research and patient services.
Candidates for Students of the Year sign up for a fierce seven-week fundraising competition, for which they appeal to family and friends to raise critical funds, which LLS deploys to advance breakthrough treatments and to support the more than 1.3 million blood cancer patients in the U.S. The candidates/teams who raise the most money at the end of the competition earn the title Student(s) of the Year. Top local fundraisers become eligible to win the national title. The students raise money in honor of a local patient hero who is currently battling or is in remission from a blood cancer.
2018 Students of the Year
Cousins Samir Shah, 16, of The Calverton School in Huntingtown, MD, and Saar Shah, 15, of Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, MD, raised the most funds across the entire US and earned the winning title, “National Students of the Year,” with a record-breaking raise for cancer cures. These fundraising superstars orchestrated a dynamic campaign that included an innovative kite festival, Fly4aCure, in their close-knit Southern Maryland community. “Flying a kite is a symbol of having high aspirations and elevated vision,” said Saar Shah. “We believe in our hopes and aspirations to find a cure for all blood cancers.”
The Shah family has been struck with blood cancers twice in the past few years. Their cousin, Ami, battled a deadly blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia and she is now seven years cancer free. More recently, Samir’s dad, Amish, was diagnosed with primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy and celebrates his incredible recovery. “We know firsthand how important cutting-edge research and treatments are in the fight against cancer,” said Samir Shah. “We’re honored to be named this year’s Students of the Year, and we’re grateful to have had this opportunity to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization that helped our family in our time of need.”
“LLS is at the forefront of the fight to cure cancer and through our fundraising campaigns like Students of the Year, we are helping millions impacted by cancer,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS president and CEO. This program is proof that the youngest generation has the power to help us create a world without cancer.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s latest approval of a blood cancer therapy is encouraging news for a group of lymphoma patients with a very rare subset of the disease called primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL). The approval is for patients who have relapsed after two or more prior lines of therapy or who did not respond to therapy at all.
PMBCL is a type of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that occurs in the thymus, a gland in the chest area that is part of the immune system. PMBCL accounts for about 2-3 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas; more than 650,000 people are currently living with NHL in the U.S. PMBCL tends to impact younger adults in their 30s and 40s.
The therapy approved Wednesday by the FDA is called pembrolizumab (Keytruda ®), an immunotherapy known as a checkpoint inhibitor, that works by blocking a specific protein, PD1 that acts as a mask, preventing the body’s immune T cells from recognizing cancer cells. Targeting this protein unleashes the immune T cells so they can attack the cancer cells.
Pembrolizumab was previously approved in March 2017 for Hodgkin lymphoma patients. Another checkpoint inhibitor, nivolumab (Opdivo ®), is also approved for Hodgkin lymphoma. Additional approved indications for pembrolizumab include solid tumor cancers such as melanoma, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, urothelial carcinoma, gastric cancer, cervical cancer, and microsatellite instability–high solid tumors.
While LLS did not directly support the trials leading to this latest approval, LLS supports many researchers investigating the utility of anti PD1 therapy in various types of lymphomas, including central nervous system lymphoma and follicular lymphoma. LLS has also supported research to other immunotherapeutic approaches to treating PMLBCL, and in fact, the approval of the Kite/Gilead CAR T-cell immunotherapy, Yescarta ®, last year was the outcome of the clinical trial supported by LLS.
Wednesday's approval is based on a clinical trial – Keynote-170 – involving 53 patients with relapsed/refractory PMBCL who were positive for PD1. The overall response rate was 45% with a complete response rate was 11%, and a partial response rate of 34%. The approval was under the FDA’s accelerated approval program, meaning further testing must still be conducted to received a full approval. To read more about this latest approval click here.
This post is one in a series of news updates from ASCO. Read more by clicking here and here.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (#ASCO18) annual meeting is an opportunity to show the progress on investigational cancer therapies, better ways to use old medicines and improved methods of diagnosis.
One of the interesting themes to emerge over the past few days here in Chicago is the goal of giving less rather than more treatment. The quest to de-escalate treatment helps avoid both physical and financial toxicity. Precision medicine – using technology to identify a patient’s genetic profile and tailor treatment accordingly – is the key.
The big news of the day on Sunday was from a large study showing that many women with early-stage breast cancer can forego chemotherapy after surgery. The TAILORx trial involved more than 10,000 women and used a genetic test to identify their tumor type. The study found that women whose tumors respond to hormone therapy and test negative for the HER2 gene, which constitutes about half of all women with breast cancer, can safely skip chemotherapy after their tumor is removed.
Key takeaway: Thousands of women may be able to skip chemotherapy – along with all of its damaging short and long-term side effects – and still have a good prognosis.