Advances in cancer research seem to be occurring at dizzying speed these days.
In just the past three years, we’ve seen a plethora of new therapies approved to treat patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and multiple myeloma. And the rapidly advancing field of cancer immunotherapy has produced several novel approaches to treat cancer patients by activating their own immune systems to fight the cancer. Meanwhile, as we learn more about the underlying causes of cancer, scientists are becoming better at targeting the cancer-causing molecular mutations while sparing the healthy tissue, through a “precision medicine” approach to treatment.
But while it feels like these revolutionary changes are happening at warp speed the truth is, these advances in cancer treatment are the result of long-term investment in basic research and early clinical studies.
And for decades, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has been leading the way, investing in research aimed at harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, a concept that seemed reasonable yet for years good results remained elusive.
Today, we are finally seeing that investment pay off. In just the past week, three innovative therapies, all advanced with significant LLS investment, have taken a step toward approval. Two companies, Novartis and Kite Pharma, both developing immunotherapies called CAR-T personalized cellular therapy, have submitted applications to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. LLS has supported both of these.
The Novartis therapy, which is under review to treat children and young adults with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia, originated in the lab led by Carl June, M.D. and his team at University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. LLS has supported this work for two decades with a total investment of $21 million.
Kite Pharma has been LLS’s partner since 2015 through our Therapy Acceleration Program® (TAP), a strategic initiative to partner directly with biotechnology companies to accelerate cures, now in its 10th year. Kite’s submission to the FDA is for lymphoma patients who have relapsed or are resistant to previous therapies.
The CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor) cellular therapies under review work by taking the patient’s own immune T cells from the body and reprogramming them so they are trained to find and kill the cancer cells. Outcomes for some of the patients treated this way have been truly remarkable. Some patients, who appeared to have run out of options for treatment, are now cancer-free three or four years after treatment.
LLS has also been leading the offensive against acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most deadly blood cancers for which standard care has remained relatively unchanged over more than 40 years. We’ve launched the Beat AML Master Trial taking a precision medicine approach to identify the genetic subtypes of AML so patients can receive an appropriate targeted therapy for their cancer.
But we’ve been supporting other approaches to treat AML as well. One of these novel drugs, Vyxeos™ (formerly known as CPX-351) is a reformulation of standard therapy. It has performed well compared to standard therapy in a Phase 3 trial for older patients with secondary AML, a high-risk form of the disease. We've supported this research through our partnership with Celator Pharmaceuticals since 2009. In May 2016 Jazz Pharmaceuticals acquired Celator and this week finalized their submission to the FDA for approval.
Should any or all of these therapies attain approval, it will mark a significant achievement for LLS’s long-term commitment to supporting both basic and clinical research in our quest to accelerate the pace of drug discovery and development and bring life-saving therapies to patients faster.
LLS continues to support the next generation of this research, seeking to understand why some people respond these therapies while others don’t; whether these approaches can be applied to more cancers beyond blood cancers; and if more optimal combinations of therapies can lead to even better outcomes for more patients.
This is truly an exciting time in the field of blood cancer research and treatment!
More than 3,000 votes are in, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has officially announced the winner for the 2017 Light The Night T-shirt contest. Congratulations to 49-year-old Greg Cunningham of Raleigh, North Carolina!
When the 30-year-veteran graphic designer heard his design would be featured on the T-shirts of thousands of Light The Night participants across the country, he was thrilled. “I can't tell you what a positive win this is for me emotionally, I am so proud to contribute to this incredible campaign and support LLS’s mission to cure blood cancer,” he said.
Greg was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in 2014. He underwent a bone marrow transplant this past February, and is currently recovering in hospital housing at the University of North Carolina Hospital. While in recovery, he was determined to contribute his undeniable talents to the cause.
Greg provided us with some insight to the story behind his design, and triumphant journey.
Q. What inspired you to enter the Light The Night t-shirt contest?
Since my diagnosis, I have participated in two Light The Night walks with my friends and family, we call ourselves “Team Leukemia Beat Down.” Light The Night has always been a welcome distraction for the tough times that were ahead of me. As a graphic designer currently on disability leave, I wanted to make sure I kept my skills sharp. I hope to return to work this summer. I also felt the need to contribute to LLS beyond fundraising and this was a great way to do that.
Q. How did you come up with your design?
I looked at past designs and tried to bring the best elements in from the events I attended. Color and clarity were important, but I also wanted to make sure the creative elements were catchy. I liked that my three stylized lanterns could have different meanings to people. The font and the stars seemed to be celebratory and tie the design together. I am grateful to be a part of Light The Night in such an impactful way.
Q. Can we find Team Leukemia Beat Down at any Light The Night walks this year?
We signed up for this year’s walk in Cary, North Carolina on October 28. I certainly plan to be there.
Q. Any advice for others?
Keeping a sense of humor and staying positive has really helped me get through some of my darkest days.
Congratulations, Greg! Thank you to all who participated in the 2017 Light The Night T-shirt contest!
From left to right, Greg’s daughter Annie, Greg, Greg’s wife Susie and daughter Lynelle, holding a photograph from his co-workers, who thoughtfully grouped together in support with their own T-shirt design "Cunningham Strong”— designed in the color and typeface of his favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Making healthy food choices before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger. In fact, people living with cancer who eat well and keep or achieve a healthy weight usually manage treatment side effects better. Eating well also helps the body replace blood cells and healthy tissues that may be damaged as a result of treatment.
According to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Information Resource Center team of master’s level oncology social workers, nurses and health educators, cancer research related to nutrition is still in its early stages, and it may be hard to find truthful and honest advice because of the myths and misinformation about this subject. To provide some clarity, we spoke with LLS’s Information Specialists who provided the following tips:
1. Choose Healthy Foods
Many nutritionists agree that eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure intake of all the nutrients that the body requires. A healthy eating pattern includes a combination of food groups and a calorie intake level that maintains a healthy body weight. A healthy diet includes a balance of:
Fruits and vegetables
Whole grains and legumes
A variety of protein, including fish, lean meats and poultry
Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt and cheese
Oils including olive oil and canola oil for cooking and salad dressings
2. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to eating well, it is important to:
Maintain or achieve a healthy weight
Drink enough fluid
Exercise. Consult your doctor first, and start with low-risk activities like short daily walks.
Get enough sleep (7 to 9 hours for adults)
Do not use tobacco or abuse drugs and limit or avoid alcohol.
3. Talk to Your Doctor About Foods to Avoid
Certain foods may cause a bad reaction with some of the therapies that are used to treat cancer. Members of your treatment team should tell you which foods to avoid.
When you begin a new treatment or start using a new drug, it is a good idea to tell your doctor about any food allergies you have and all vitamin and herbal supplements you are taking. You should also ask the following questions:
Will I have any special nutritional needs while taking this medication?
Do I need to take this medication with food or should I take it without food?
Are there any known foods that I shouldn’t eat during this treatment?
4. Try to Eat, Even If You Don't Have an Appetite
Your cancer and the treatment for it may increase your body’s need for calories and protein. Chemotherapy, certain other drug therapies and radiation therapy create a need for more calories and protein. The following nutrition tips can help you to get the most nutrition out of each bite of food when decreased appetite is a problem:
Eat small meals or snacks frequently throughout the day.
Keep prepared snacks or small meals on hand and be sure to take them with you when you will be away from home.
Try high calorie liquids such as juices, soups or shakes if eating solid foods is a problem.
5. Get Enough to Drink
Certain cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, other drug therapies and radiation therapy can increase risk for dehydration. Some side effects of treatment, such as diarrhea and vomiting, increase the need for more fluids.
Sipping even small amounts of liquids at regular intervals will help if that is all you can manage. Your treatment team may recommend liquids, such as broths or sports drinks—these can restore the body’s electrolyte balance. Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, have many important functions in the body. Vomiting and diarrhea increase your body’s loss of electrolytes. Check with your treatment team to see if you need extra help in keeping your body’s fluid in balance by drinking liquids that contain electrolytes.
The Information Resource Center is a team of master's level oncology social workers, nurses and health educators, who assist patients through cancer treatment. To speak one-on-one with a LLS Information Specialist call (800) 955-4572 or go to www.lls.org/irc.