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Rye Brook, N.Y. (May 7, 2018) – The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the largest nonprofit dedicated to fighting blood cancers, today unveiled a new brand platform showcasing its work in the fight to cure cancers. “Beating Cancer Is In Our Blood” highlights LLS’s resolve to end blood cancers, the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., and shows that breakthroughs in blood cancer research are now saving lives and being tested in clinical trials for other cancers and diseases, such as brain, breast, kidney, liver, lung, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer, as well as arthritis and diabetes.
Lifesaving discoveries - beginning with chemotherapy and, today, including immunotherapies, genomics and precision medicine - emerged from researching blood cells, which are easier to access and study than cancer cells in solid tumors. LLS has been at the forefront of many of these new innovations; in fact, while 10 percent of all cancers in the United States are blood cancers, approximately 40 percent of all cancer drugs approved by the FDA since 2000 were first approved to treat blood cancers, 60 percent of which of which were funded by LLS.
“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has invested more than $1.2 billion in research to advance groundbreaking approaches and therapies in cancer treatment, including immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine, which are saving lives,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS president and CEO. “Our focus on curing blood cancers has not changed, but our work is fueling significant scientific and medical breakthroughs across the cancer landscape.”
Research breakthroughs in blood cancer treatments are occurring at an ever-increasing rate; last year alone saw 18 new U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approvals for blood cancers, and LLS supported 15 of them.
LLS’s Impact Beyond Blood Cancer
- Among the FDA approvals last year were two revolutionary CAR T-cell immunotherapies, tisagenlecleucel-T (Kymriah®) and axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta®), which harness the immune system by reprogramming the body’s own T cells to find and kill cancer cells, approved for certain leukemia and lymphoma patients who have relapsed or did not respond to treatment. CAR-T has stimulated a new area of cancer research and is currently being tested on solid tumors. For the past two decades, LLS has invested more than $40 million in CAR-T research and development.
- LLS has played a significant role in additional cancer treatment game-changers, including:
- A first in precision medicine, targeted therapy imatinib (Gleevec®) was approved by the FDA in 2001 to treat leukemia patients and is now approved for more than 10 different indications. In 2008, imatinib was FDA approved to treat gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) patients.
- Ibrutinib (Imbruvica®) approved for blood cancers mantle cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, is now in clinical trials for pancreatic cancer, renal cell carcinomas and melanoma.
- Rituximab (Rituxan®) approved for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, is also approved for autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
- Ruxolitinib (Jakafi®), approved for blood cancers myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera, is now in clinical trials for lymphoma, vitiligo, graft versus host disease, breast cancer and alopecia areata.
“Beating Cancer Is In Our Blood” Integrated Campaign
“LLS’s bold pronouncement – ‘Beating Cancer Is In Our Blood’ – puts LLS in its rightful position as a leader in advancing lifesaving therapies and patient support, and drives home the role of blood cancer research in curing cancers,” said Andrew Coccari, LLS executive vice president and chief product officer. The new campaign, created by purpose-driven agency OBERLAND in New York, is founded on LLS’s legacy of funding groundbreaking research in blood cancers, as a way to inform the public that this work is making a significant impact on other cancers and diseases.
Dynamic and powerful :30 and :60 “Tougher Than Cancer” spots directed by Believe Media’s Zack Snyder feature a dramatic compilation of “before and after” vignettes portraying individuals who suffered from cancer. In :30 and :60 “Cancer Survivor” spots, Jessica, Myrrah and Athena share their personal stories of courage in the face of a cancer diagnosis. Radio spots in English and Spanish, digital assets including social and display ads, and out-of-home media round out the campaign, which will also include social media and events. According to DeGennaro, “LLS facilitates and accelerates breakthrough cancer treatments. We need a breakthrough campaign to live up to our mission.”
LLS’s Impact in Helping Patients Get the Treatments They Need
In addition to its success in therapy advancements, LLS has a proven track record improving cancer patients’ access to cures.
LLS’s advocacy efforts for blood cancer patients are driving impact at the state and federal levels and are universally beneficial for all cancer patients, including a successful initiative to reduce out-of-pocket costs by advancing oral parity laws in 43 states and Washington, D.C., efforts to pass the 21st Century Cures Act into law, as well as our advocacy on behalf of the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, which expand childhood cancer research.
LLS provides free education and support for cancer patients and healthcare professionals, including vital support for finding and enrolling in clinical trials. LLS works with medical institutions and the FDA to incorporate the patient perspective into the design of these studies, so that the patient experience is front and center in the drug development process.
Read what Patients and Researchers are saying about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s impact.
After being diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer called GIST, Leslie Donigan lost hope.
Leslie was told her cancer was terminal. Then her doctor prescribed a medication discovered for blood cancer – and it worked. Leslie was treated with imatinib (Gleevec®), a drug developed by LLS-funded researcher Brian Druker, MD, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and approved to treat patients with chronic myeloid leukemia. The treatment that saved her life resulted directly from blood cancer research funded by LLS. Imatinib has also been approved to treat skin cancer, and more than 10 other cancers and diseases. Leslie and her husband Jim, a lymphoma survivor, credit LLS and its trailblazing blood cancer research with saving both their lives.
Selina Chen-Kiang, PhD, discovered a life-changing drug that works for both blood and breast cancers.
Dr. Chen-Kiang is a renowned professor of pathology, laboratory medicine, and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and has received multiple LLS grants over the past 17 years. While her work is focused on the blood cancers myeloma and lymphoma, Chen-Kiang’s discovery that a targeted drug was effective in blocking an enzyme responsible for cell division, including the proliferation of cancer cells, helped lead the way to that therapy, palbociclib, receiving FDA approval in 2015 for breast cancer. With LLS support, Chen-Kiang is continuing to test palbociclib’s effectiveness in treating patients with mantle cell lymphoma.
Emily Dumler, a 32-year-old mother of three young children, was diagnosed with a blood cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in August 2013.
After a whirlwind of intense treatments including chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and months of hospitalization, Emily relapsed soon after each treatment and was given a devastating prognosis—doctors said she had six months to live. Emily received a glimmer of hope when doctors told her of a potential new treatment - she became the third patient in the world enrolled in a clinical trial for a lifesaving treatment using CAR T-cell immunotherapy made possible by LLS funding. The revolutionary therapy was a success. Emily has been in remission for more than two years. This CAR T-cell immunotherapy approach, FDA-approved in 2017, is currently being tested on solid tumors.
LLS grant recipient Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD, discovered mutations in the blood, known as CHIP, opening up the possibility of preventative medicine for those at risk.
Dr. Ebert is chair of medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who studied the blood from normal healthy volunteers. His lab discovered that mutations in the blood of normal individuals, known as CHIP, are associated with a higher probability of developing blood cancers later in life. Ebert’s lab was first to demonstrate that these mutations are associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. The discovery opens up the possibility of preventative medicine to identify people at risk of developing disease years before it occurs and ultimately, developing treatments that mitigate the risk.
LLS funded the work of Ron Levy, MD of Stanford University as he developed a vaccine that is injected directly into the cancer tumor, with a combination of two drugs which stimulate the immune system to kill the cancer cells.
Lab tests show the vaccine completely eradicated tumor cells in mice. A clinical trial, launched in January 2018, is testing the approach in lymphoma patients. The experimental vaccine also shows potential utility in breast, colon and melanoma cancer cells. Dr. Levy, a National Academy of Science Member since 2008, was the first to show that antibodies targeting lymphoma could control the disease. His foundational work resulted in the FDA-approval of the first antibody to treat cancer, known as rituximab, in 1997. Rituximab is now used as standard therapy to treat many lymphomas and is also approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis. According to Levy, “The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is dedicated to solving blood cancers and so am I. We will work together to get this done.”
About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to fighting blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.