Congratulations to Team LOL – a Team In Training (TNT) team led by Lynne O’Brien, a chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) survivor who has been training and fundraising through the National Capital Chapter in Washington D.C. over the past four years and is close to hitting the $1 million mark!
The team started small when Lynne, who just recently completed her chemotherapy treatments, learned about TNT, LLS’s endurance sports training and fundraising campaign, shortly after her diagnosis and set out to complete a half marathon while raising funds to help find cures for blood cancers.
Not only did she accomplish her goal - this tremendous effort earned her the title of top national TNT fundraiser that year. The team, which started with 36 members that first year, has grown to 150 members now from multiple states. This Sunday they will run in the GW Parkway Classic, and are about $45,000 away from hitting their $1 million target. Go Team!
LLS-funded researcher Anthony Letai, MD, PhD, talks about how his work led to clinical trials of venetoclax for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and a priority review by the FDA, and how these developments could ultimately lead to the first new therapy approval for AML in decades.
An associate professor in medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Letai has been the recipient of several LLS grants in recent years – supported as a Fellow and Scholar, and most recently, receiving Translational Research Program funding.
SUCCESS WITH CLL
We’ve seen some exciting new clinical advances in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), in particular the spectacular activity of venetoclax, formerly known as ABT-199. The FDA approved the investigational medicine earlier this month for treatment of previously treated CLL patients who are at higher risk, and in January, the FDA granted a second Breakthrough Therapy Designation in combination with rituximab for the same population.
Venetoclax will likely be a key component of CLL therapy moving forward, and your work has played a significant role over the past 10 years.
What has been your motivation and involvement in these developments?
Letai: I am an oncologist as well as a lab researcher, so my greatest motivation has been to figure out a way to do better for our cancer patients. It is interesting to probe the secrets of cancer biology, but the real gratification comes in actually improving the care of living, breathing cancer patients. The concept of learning things in the lab to apply them to clinical care seems straightforward, but experience has taught me how challenging it can be. The support of foundations like LLS that are interested not only in scientific hypothesis testing, but also in real clinical progress, is essential for this kind of translation to the clinic.
LLS recently took AML survivors and caregivers to meet with the FDA in Washington D.C. to talk about the risks and benefits of treatment
Wanting to make sure the patient voice is heard when it comes to the development of new therapies, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) recently brought a delegation to Washington D.C. to share personal experiences with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Plans for a research study to learn what patients and caregivers are looking for in new treatments were also presented.
LLS’s Office of Public Policy knows the importance of pushing for new drug development, but you can’t consider a new therapy without also looking at its impact on quality of life issues such as short- and long-term side effects. That is especially true for a disease like acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most difficult cancers to treat and where there is a critical need for better therapies.
To emphasize this point, LLS President and CEO Louis J. DeGennaro and I led 14 AML survivors and seven caregivers, along with several LLS leaders, on an unprecedented visit to the FDA’s offices on April 6. The group met with Richard Pazdur, M.D., FDA director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products, and about 20 of his staff and colleagues. Throughout the meeting the survivors, caregivers, Dr. Pazdur and his staff engaged in a round-table dialogue about living with and fighting AML.