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Since our last newsletter in January, I had the privilege to experience an evening I will never forget on February 18 in Houston. The event was M.D. Anderson's “Making Cancer History” dinner to begin their capitol campaign. Dr. Herbst discusses more about this event in his note below. For years I have attended events for all sorts of meaningful causes. What Tiffany and I experienced in Houston was beyond our wildest expectations.
The room was full of patients who were cancer free, and cancer survivors like me. These people who are now cancer free were there to praise the great work of the doctors and researchers at M.D. Anderson. One by one these cancer free survivors — and I as a current patient — stood before the audience of major donors and told their compelling personal story through video and discussion. I was honored to stand among them and share mine. For a wonderful re-cap of the evening I’d encourage you to read this synopsis and view this video: http://www2.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/2010/02/the-reason-behind-philanthropic-gifts.html.
Each of them ended their stories with a simple act. They each turned their backs to the audience to face the word ‘CANCER’ projected in black and white on a big TV screen behind them, then with the wave of their hand put a red slash through the word CANCER to celebrate that they are cancer-free. It was one small act with tremendous meaning and power evidenced by the number of tears shed that night.
As if that weren’t feel-good enough, another wonderful event took place in Atlanta on Saturday, March 20, at The Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Foundation (www.JGLCF.org) “Dancing for Joan” fundraiser where — in addition to a night of moving words, not to mention inspired dancing moves — I was humbled to receive their annual Hummingbird Award. JGLCF was also extremely generous to donate $12,000 to support the work we are doing here at Take Aim At Cancer. Simply put, it was a tremendous honor to accept their gift on all of our behalf!
What may be most noteworthy to all of you is that 100% of the funds we raise go directly to cancer research. I look forward to sharing more truly exciting news about the progress we’re making as a fund as we get closer to the events and speaking opportunities planned this spring and summer, including the fundraiser here in Atlanta on May 17 (more details to come). I am so very encouraged by the warm embrace you and the cancer community at large have extended our organization and I am confident what we are accomplishing in these first months of operation represent the sort of solid foundation we’ll need to be the successful endeavor we ‘aim’ to be!
At M.D. Anderson we have one mission: to eliminate cancer. Jeff talked above about the evening we all experienced in Houston. “Making Cancer History: The Campaign to Transform Cancer Care” has been designed to optimize all of our efforts in research. The campaign will provide us with critical resources we need to speed the translation of new discoveries into personalized prevention strategies and cancer treatments. There may be new hope on the horizon for patients with advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC), a collection of tumor types that comprise the majority of lung cancers.
We are moving toward an era in which the primary aim is to be able to profile any patient's tumor and use that information to treat them in a more effective and, as importantly, less toxic way. Leading to that era is the Biomarker-Integrated Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination (BATTLE) program, which as you know is the series of trials in which Jeff is participating, one of the first studies to use biomarker analysis to direct lung cancer treatment. In BATTLE, NSCLC patients in whom chemotherapy has failed are undergoing core needle biopsies of their tumors to provide tissue for biomarker testing.
The first stage of this study is aimed at identifying biomarkers that predict NSCLC's susceptibility to certain therapeutic agents; this stage is nearing completion. Findings from this study will allow M.D. Anderson researchers to continue to augment our methodology of providing NSCLC patients with personalized therapy using drugs that block the tumor's activity based on its specific molecular profile.
As we will share with the cancer research community this Spring, the BATTLE model has given us good reason to believe we are embarking on an extraordinary era of progress in cancer research. At our Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, with your support, my colleagues and I are moving rapidly and methodically to apply new genetic and molecular knowledge and the latest technologies to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
If you haven’t done so already, I’d be remiss not to suggest you take a moment to explore the Making Cancer History campaign website some of the folks here at Anderson have put together — www.MakingCancerHistoryCampaign.org — does a nice job of bringing to life the very reason we are all working toward the same common goal: eliminate cancer.
Thank you again for your ongoing support,
Dr. Roy S. Herbst, MD., Ph.D.