This week, positive data from a Kite Pharma CAR-T immunotherapy clinical trial was released showing that more than one-third of refractory aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) patients in the study showed no signs of the disease after six months.
Since 2015, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has been funding this study through its collaboration with Kite Pharma, a biotechnology company focused on immunotherapy.
In this therapy, immune T-cells are removed from the patient’s body, and then the cells are genetically engineered to produce a protein on the surface of the T-cells that can bind and recognize the cancer cells. Once the T-cells “home in” on the cancer cells, this triggers the T-cells to multiply and kill the cancer-ridden cells.
This clinical study is funded through LLS’s Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP)® through which LLS collaborates directly with biotechnology companies to help accelerate the development of promising therapies.
LLS also supports Novartis’s CAR-T program, through support of a team led by Dr. Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania who is credited with pioneering this therapy. LLS has invested in the work of Dr. June and his colleagues since 1998, investing more than $20 million to advance this treatment.
Because of this groundbreaking research, we have seen remarkable progress in the treatment of blood cancer. This therapy has proven to be miraculously effective in patients with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma. Dozens of adults and children near death are now in remission, and some remain healthy up to five years after treatment.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved this treatment, patients are able to enroll in clinical trials. If you are a blood cancer patient or caregiver interested in enrolling in a clinical trial, you can contact our master’s level information specialists at the LLS Information Resource Center.
World Cancer Day is February 4, when people across the globe come together to work toward reducing the global burden of cancer. An integral part of this work is scientific research that leads to innovative treatments, ultimately saving lives.
Despite promising advances in treatment, cancers are among the leading cause of disease and deaths worldwide. Cancers know no boundaries, and have devastating impacts on families across the globe.
In 2012, there were more than 900,000 new cases of blood cancers around the world. In fact, leukemia was the tenth most common cause of cancer death, and lymphomas were the seventh most common form of cancer. In the United States, blood cancers are the third leading cause of cancer-related death, behind cancers of the respiratory and digestive systems.
At The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) our mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its inception in 1949, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in cutting-edge research to advance lifesaving treatments and cures.
On World Cancer Day, it is important to recognize the world-renowned blood cancer researchers and clinicians across the globe who work tirelessly every day to make our mission a reality. Currently, LLS is funding scientific research in eight countries around the globe, investing in breakthrough research in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and England. Here are some highlights:
In Canada, Tak Mak, Ph.D., Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network in Toronto, was recently awarded a prestigious $5 million Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant for a five-year research program, which brings together an international team of researchers across disciplines and institutions. Mak’s research team is studying mutations that cause leukemia and lymphoma to understand how they affect resistance to therapy, which will lead to new and better therapies.
In Australia, Jerry M. Adams, Ph.D., Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, leads another prestigious SCOR program. Adams and his colleagues investigate how cell death can lead to cancer when it does not function properly, and how drugs that promote cell death can improve cancer treatment. This concept has broad applications for cancer research.
Since 2002, LLS has provided $15 million to support the work of Adams and his team to advance venetoclax (Venclexta®), a treatment that was recently approved to treat patients with a high-risk form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This therapy now helps patients who otherwise did not have many treatment options. There are also clinical trials using this drug to treat patients with other types of leukemia.
In Italy, LLS supports a lead researcher in a clinical trial to study new treatments for hairy cell leukemia (HCL), a rare form of blood cancer with limited therapy options. Enrico Tiacci, M.D., University of Perugia, and his research team discovered that a genetic mutation, called BRAF, is involved in the development of HCL in almost all patients.
Tiacci’s team is studying a drug that blocks BRAF. The drug was originally developed for melanoma, an unrelated skin cancer often carrying the same mutation. The drug, vemurafenib, has already shown positive results in HCL patients who have not responded well or who have had severe side effects from chemotherapy. Now, the drug is being tested in combination with rituximab, another drug that targets leukemia cells, to provide even better results.
Across the globe, researchers are conducting pivotal work leading to innovative breakthroughs that are dramatically saving lives. Today, as we all work together toward a cure, we must continue to invest in medical research so that we can save more lives.
Like most high school seniors getting ready for college, 18-year-old Mara Hunter has been very busy preparing for her future. And all her hard work is paying off — the Olentangy Liberty High School field hockey star just earned a scholarship to play for Ohio State University next year. However, her journey has been far from easy.
A little over a year ago, Mara started having unusual symptoms, starting with her left ear. Over time, her symptoms worsened until she eventually passed out during field hockey practice. She was rushed to the hospital and had a bone marrow biopsy the next day. Just a few hours later, Mara was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Mara underwent surgery and spent 11 days in the hospital. Her road to recovery caused her to miss playing on the team her junior year, although she resumed academic classes online. There were days where she would have to take as many as 25 pills a day.
“I never thought I’d be able to play again,” Mara said. But after a courageous fight, Mara came back to the field with a vengeance the following year — winning six goals during the team’s first seven games.
Mara joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night walk, LLS’s inspirational fundraising walk where she served as Columbus, Ohio’s 2015 Honored Hero. In this role, she served as the face of other blood cancer patients by sharing her story with other walkers. Her friends, neighbors and classmates all came together to raise funds and show their support.
With a bright future ahead of her, Mara recently received a special visit from another shining star athlete — three-time Olympic gold-medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Mara was able to hang out with Jennings and they participated in a professional “sports-themed” photo shoot. Mara even had a chance to show Jennings some of her field hocky moves. The surprise visit which took place in Columbus, Ohio, was part of LLS’s Random Acts of Light program.
Jennings had some encouraging words for Mara: “Don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to get frustrated, work through it and you’re going to get where you want to go.”
Through Random Acts of Light, LLS brings moments of light to those touched by blood cancer. Celebrities surprise survivors with special meetings to bring light to the darkness of cancer and create awareness for the critical need to find new treatments and cures for blood cancer patients.