The impact of LLS funding
over decades in the fight against cancer
In 1949, Rudolph and Antoinette Roesler de Villiers, who lost their teenage son, Robert, to leukemia in 1944, established the first incarnation of what became The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The impact was felt right away and the 1950s and 1960s saw some major treatment advances that were revolutionary for the time.
George H. Hitchings, PhD, and Gertrude B. Elion, D.Sc., began collaborating in 1945 and developed the most widely used anti-leukemia drugs in 1950-1951. Both later served as medical and scientific advisors to LLS, and earned the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
Photo: Wellcome Library, London
The advent of the 1970s brought an early understanding of the genetics of cancer with the discovery of oncogenes. For his role in identifying oncogenes, J. Michael Bishop, MD, an advisor to LLS, later received the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. By the 1980s, researchers advanced this knowledge further.
Photo: PBS/Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies
Riccardo Dalla-Favera, MD, and his LLS-funded research team studied the molecular pathway involved in immune B-cell activation and how those pathways became dysregulated in B-cell cancers. A few decades later, he led a team of LLS-funded researchers investigating the genetic origins of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, played an instrumental role in the advancement of immunotherapy, particularly in treating pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients. Almost two decades before, LLS awarded Grupp with a Career Development Special Fellow Award, which he credited with helping to launch his career.
LLS-funded research continued to drive breakthroughs and advances, transforming cancer’s grim past into a promising future. From 2010-2012, John Byrd, MD, and colleagues published Phase II trial results for ibrutinib in CLL and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) patients, showing safety and lasting remissions.
LLS is supporting emerging work to understand how mutations lead to blood cancers. Today, LLS supports the work of Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD, and Irene Ghobrial, MD, who are studying how to prevent recurrence after treatment as well as preventing precursor diseases from progressing to blood cancer.