David Weinstock, M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, is looking to identify new targets for therapies for patients with leukemia and lymphoma. His latest research, funded through a Specialized Center of Research grant from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, focuses on T-cell lymphomas.
An associate professor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Weinstock received a grant in 2002 through LLS’s Career Development Program designed to help young scientists. That early work explored abnormal cell growth and chromosome translocations that can progress to blood cancer. Then last year he received a scholar award to study how gene mutations promote the growth of follicular lymphoma.
“That support has played a significant role in my career development,” Weinstock said. “LLS funding gives researchers the flexibility to expand their research into innovative areas for which there might otherwise be limited financial resources.”
He’s since moved on to lead a prestigious $5 million Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant, LLS’s most ambitious funding program. The five-year project will enable he and his colleagues from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to test different targeted approaches for treating patients with T-cell lymphomas, for which there are currently very few good options.
Recently, Weinstock took some time to answer a few questions about his current research.
Just the thought of chemotherapy can be enough to make one feel sick. Toxic drugs powerful enough to kill or damage cancer cells also take their toll on healthy cells. While everyone tends to respond differently, most agree the treatments come with unpleasant side effects.
Get some “chemowear.” Treat yourself to something that is comfortable and makes you feel good about yourself. You want to be able to just reach in your closet and grab something soft and loose-fitting. No thinking required.
Pack a ready-to-go travel bag and keep it near the door. Be sure to include books and magazines; a laptop or e-reader; some ginger chews and ginger pills (for nausea); lip balm and lotion (the air in treatment centers can get very dry); cozy socks; a bottle of water; and some healthy snacks. And don’t forget a fleece blanket! It can get cold in those chemo rooms. Change up the items as needed.
Prepare to stay awhile. Chemo sessions can take several hours. Plan out something to do. Set up a playlist for your iPhone, get a new book series, or grab a pillow for a nap.
Make sure you have good food to come home to. Gingersnaps, ginger ale, crackers, bananas, peanut butter, popsicles and angel food cake are easy to digest. Whipping up a smoothie can be a good idea also.
Frank Meehan spent two decades spearheading the United Food & Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) effort to raise money to defeat blood cancers. As president of the Long Island, NY Local, he was one of the first leaders to act upon the union’s national relationship with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).
Then last spring, in a twist of fate, he ended up losing his life to one of the aggressive leukemias he’d been hoping to see cured.
“It’s so ironic. He worked so hard for this cause,” said his wife Pam. “He kicked off UFCW’s involvement for years. For him to pass from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) just blew us all away.”
Meehan, who was 75, looked and felt fine when he went for his annual physical in December. He had a low level of vitamin B12 that he couldn’t seem to kick but that was it. When a doctor did a bone marrow biopsy in March just to be safe, he was diagnosed with AML. The initial treatment knocked out his white blood cells and when he developed a complication, it couldn’t be treated and he got pneumonia. He died on Easter Sunday, only three weeks after being diagnosed.
At first his family was angry. He did so much to fight leukemia. Why would this happen to him?
“But then you ask why it would happen to a small child,” said Pam Meehan. “There’s no answer. It’s just a devastating loss.”