By Victor Scott, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Pennies on Monday, nickels on Tuesday, dimes on Wednesday, quarters on Thursday and counting on Friday.
It's called "Coins for a Cause." Four times a year students at the Harrison Avenue Elementary School in South Glens Falls, N.Y., scour for loose change to bring to school for this fundraising tradition.
"Our 'Coins for a Cause' program is exciting not only because we're raising money, but also because it teaches our students to be caring, compassionate citizens," says Alissa Bevivino, student council sponsor.
For each of the four fundraising coin drives, members of the fifth-grade student council are encouraged to campaign for a cause they feel is important to support.
During the week of Jan. 31, 2011, the students collected $680 in coins and chose to honor their beloved former principal, Jim Baker, by donating to MD Anderson's lymphoma research.
Kids support search for a cure
In 2008, Baker was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma and began treatment at MD Anderson. The students' donation supports research led by Baker's physician, Larry Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at MD Anderson.
Recently in Grants and Funding Category
By Victor Scott, MD Anderson Staff Writer
By Will Fitzgerald, MD Anderson Staff Writer
On the morning of Sept. 24, runners, walkers and all those interested in supporting melanoma research will congregate at MD Anderson's Mays Clinic for the 2011 AIM for a Cure Melanoma Walk and Fun Run. The event is an opportunity for patients/survivors, family members and friends to unite against one of the most dangerous and commonly diagnosed forms of skin cancer.
It's co-hosted by MD Anderson and the AIM at Melanoma Foundation, with high hopes of surpassing the more than $80,000 raised last year to support the latest advances occurring in MD Anderson's Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology. Just as critical as supporting innovative research, the run also raises awareness about a disease that more than 70,000 men and women will be diagnosed with this year alone.
Judy Sager, president of AIM at Melanoma's Houston Chapter and event organizer, was personally affected by melanoma after losing her husband Jurgen to the disease at age 48.
"My husband searched the world for any treatment that he thought would save his life," Sager says. He was willing to try anything and practically did, but it didn't save his life. We can do better."
By Michelle Moore, MD Anderson staff writer
When it comes to giving back, 12-year-old Audrey Morabito has proved that age is nothing but a number. While most kids were writing out a list of all the gifts they wanted for Christmas, Audrey and her friend Brittany Bowles, 12, were looking for a way to do just the opposite.
The two seventh-graders, from John Paul II Catholic School in Houston, raised $450 for MD Anderson by selling handmade Christmas earrings for $5 a pair at their school's holiday celebration. They called their project Crafts for a Cure.
"I looked around at everything I have, and it's so much, more than enough," Bowles says. "I really just wanted to give."
On a family trip to Colorado, Morabito saw a jewelry-making shop and decided to stop in. She picked up a magazine on creating jewelry out of clay, and the rest is history.
"We like arts and crafts, so when we got the clay we made lots of things like magnets, animals, rosaries and, of course, earrings," Bowles says.
With a profound understanding that not all young people are in the same position as they are, the girls have a special purpose in mind for these funds.
"We hope this money goes toward cancer research, especially for children," Morabito says. "We get to sit at home eating Christmas cookies, while some kids are spending Christmas in a hospital. It's not fair."
"This was totally their idea; we had nothing to do with it," says Audrey's mother, Joan Morabito. "They're even sending all of the earrings left over to the pediatric patients at MD Anderson's Children's Cancer Hospital."
Taking their generosity to the next level, both girls decided it wouldn't be fair to leave the boys out, so they included a shipment of Wii games along with the earrings.
Audrey hopes to pass on the sentiment that philanthropy knows no boundaries or borders.
"You can do anything you want, no matter how young you are, if you put your mind to it," Morabito says. "You can't be afraid to try new things."
Read more about the people who donate to MD Anderson and the difference those donations make in Promise.
An MD Anderson physician-scientist who uses a mathematical program to pull lung function data from CT scans in hopes of improving treatment of lung cancer and other diseases has won an NIH Director's New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health.
The award provides $1.5 million over five years to Thomas Guerrero, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiation Oncology. Guerrero and colleagues have developed a mathematical program -- an algorithm -- designed to more accurately identify damaged areas of the lung.
"Our goal for lung cancer is to reduce toxicity caused when patients receive radiotherapy, and to characterize chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Our research methods produce images of the distribution of lung function, or lack of lung function, throughout the lung in these patients," Guerrero says. The grant will fund a lung cancer clinical trial and a study of lung function characterization in COPD.
"Dr. Guerrero's work represents a novel, noninvasive imaging method for better understanding of lung function, which will enable us to further personalize radiation treatment planning to provide the most effective and the safest treatment of lung cancer," says Thomas Buchholz, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology.
The NIH announced 52 awards Thursday granted out of 2,200 applications.
"NIH is pleased to be supporting early-stage investigators from across the country who are taking considered risks in a wide range of areas in order to accelerate research," says Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health. "We look forward to the results of their work."
- In appreciation for the treatment her husband received at MD Anderson, a teacher at Buist Academy in Charleston, S.C., came up with "Kiss the Burro." She promised students that if they each raised $50 for MD Anderson, their teacher would have to kiss a donkey. It was a challenge the students met with extreme enthusiasm. They raised the money and the entire staff, including the principal, kissed the donkey.
- "Beating Cancer with a Stick" is an annual lacrosse tournament held at The Kinkaid School in Houston. High school and college teams from across the country travel to Kincaid to play in the tournament and raise money for the MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital. During the inaugural tournament this year, the school presented MD Anderson with a check for $10,000.
- "Polo on the Prairie" was started almost a quarter century ago by Midland, Texas, natives Melinda and Henry Musselman, and Melinda's mother, Mary Anne McCloud. During the first weekend in May, the Musselmans turn the pasture at their Lazy 3 Ranch into a polo field where players from around the world come to play polo and raise money for MD Anderson. Polo on the Prairie raised more than $226,000 this year.
By Will Fitzgerald, Staff Writer
It's one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. It often develops with little warning and poses a similar threat to a 20-year-old as it does to an 80-year-old.
The culprit in this cancerous riddle is melanoma, a disease that claimed 68,720 lives in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.
Walk, fun run May 15
To raise awareness and funds, MD Anderson is taking the message to the streets, hosting the third annual AIM for a Cure Melanoma Walk and Fun Run on Saturday, May 15, at 8 a.m. Runners and walkers will wind their way through the Texas Medical Center with other supporters, survivors and family members.
To provide participants with an up-close and personal view of the disease, Jason Connelly, a stage IV melanoma survivor, will share his courageous journey and the importance of prevention.
"Ironically, a lot of cancer survivors say their diagnosis was the best thing that happened to them," Connelly says. "It brought me closer to my son and wife and also put me on a quest to give back."
The first step in his diagnosis was a visit to a dermatologist, who discovered and removed a mole with melanoma. Years later, after suddenly feeling sick, Connelly underwent exploratory surgery at MD Anderson. The news was grim; the mole from years earlier had developed into stage IV melanoma, a serious disease with a 10% survival rate.
"The first time I heard that I had melanoma removed, I didn't know what to think," he says. "The second time I went back in, I was scared."
Taking a positive approach
Still, the will and determination to overcome his disease was enormous. Connelly made a conscious decision to one day see his young son's wedding and knew that hope would carry him through.
"I think cancer treatment is a lot harder emotionally than physically," he says. "The doctors can manage your pain, but the most important thing is to keep your mind in the right place."
And that's exactly what he did. Now, Connelly is a healthy dad and proud husband. He has a new outlook on life and is dedicated to raising melanoma awareness.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Connelly is the guest of honor at Saturday's event, where he's looking forward to participating with his wife and son.
To register for the run, visit www.aimatmelanoma.org.
When Judith Wolf, M.D., started running to and from the hospital as a healthy response to grueling 36-hour days as a gynecologic oncology fellow, little did she realize that two of her greatest passions later would come together for the benefit of so many.
Now a noted ovarian cancer specialist and a senior member of M. D. Anderson's renowned Department of Gynecologic Oncology who still pulls long hours, Wolf will be one of the first out of the blocks on Saturday, May 1, at the 13th annual Sprint for Life Run/Walk and Sprint for Sprouts Kids' Run.
A seasoned runner, Wolf founded the race in 1998 to raise funds for M. D. Anderson's Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program. Wolf continues to chair the annual event which, to date, has brought in more than $2.3 million for basic science and translational research.
Wolf fondly remembers her patient Laura Lee Scurlock Blanton - one of the two women for whom the Blanton-Davis Program is named - and runs the annual event not only in memory of her but other women who have lost the fight with ovarian cancer. Wolf remains steadfast in her commitment to the cause and the annual event, inspired by the women who are patients and survivors - and for their daughters and granddaughters. Today, Eddy and Kelli Scurlock Blanton, Laura Lee's son and daughter-in-law, work alongside Wolf and her substantial team of M. D. Anderson staff and volunteers to grow the event each year.
"I remember when Mrs. Blanton came out to watch me run my first marathon. It was the day before she was scheduled for surgery, but she was running up and down the course with her camera cheering me on," Wolf says. "We had a unique bond and it's important for me to do this in her memory and for the others fighting ovarian cancer. This race is about celebrating survivors, raising awareness and supporting research to find better therapies and ultimately, a cure."
To register for the May 1 Sprint for Life 5K Run/Walk and Sprint for Sprouts Kids' Run, click on http://www.mdanderson.org/how-you-can-help/community-events/sprint-for-life/index.html
Representatives of the second-largest funding source for cancer research in the country visited Houston Wednesday to pass out some large checks to area researchers.
Jimmy Mansour, chairman of the oversight board of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), and board member Charles Tate distributed huge checks of the non-negotiable, symbolic variety representing $35 million in CPRIT funding to five research institutions and two biotech companies.
"This is a wonderful day, not only for the City of Houston and the Texas Medical Center, but also for would-be victims of cancer across the country and even the world," Mansour said. CPRIT awarded funding for its first round of research grants and prevention programs earlier this year.
Research projects will focus on areas such as new cancer inhibitors, early detection efforts, stem cell studies, screening techniques, and all types of cancers including colorectal, breast, lung, pancreatic, colon, cervical, prostate, leukemia and lymphoma.
Created by a constitutional amendment passed by the Texas Legislature and approved by voters in 2007, CPRIT will invest $3 billion in cancer research over the next 10 years. "We expect to be back in Houston many more times in the next ten years," Mansour said.
Recipients Wednesday were M. D. Anderson; Baylor College of Medicine; Ingeneron Inc.; Methodist Hospital Research Institute; Rice University; The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; and Visualase Inc.
Former CPRIT board member, current agency ambassador and past Rice University President Malcolm Gillis, Ph.D., presented M. D. Anderson's $12.7 million "check" to Provost and Executive Vice President Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., who praised the speed and efficiency of the new state agency. "CPRIT assembled an executive team, pulled together research committees and then got funding out in record time," DuBois said.
Executive Director William "Bill" Gimson and Chief Scientific Officer Al Gillman, M.D., Ph.D., were appointed in March and April of 2009.
"Texas' bold and decisive action is unparalleled by any other state in the country," Mansour said, noting CPRIT is second only to the National Cancer Institute in the funding of cancer research. The agency has kept overhead costs to 3% of its budget, a number that will continue to drop, Mansour said. CPRIT also assembled a group of 105 scientists to review grant applications, all of whom are from out of state.
The CPRIT web site has a complete list of all grants awarded.
M. D. Anderson awardees are:
Individual Investigator Awards
Christopher Amos, Ph.D., professor, Department of Epidemiology, "Effects from nicotinic receptor variations on smoking behaviors and lung cancer risk," $1,441,155.
Richard Davis, M.D., associate professor, Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma, "Self-antigen dependence of chronic active B-cell receptor signaling in the activated B-cell type of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma," $971,675.
Sharon Dent, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, "Regulation of Ash2L and MLL oncoproteins by PRMT-mediated methylation in normal cells and acute leukemias," $949,549.
Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, "Prostaglandins and inflammation in colorectal cancer," $1,198,243.
Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D., associate professor, Department of Leukemia, "Analysis of histone code alterations and the role of histone demethylase JMJD3 using CHIP-seq in myelodysplastic syndromes," $771,451.
Peter Gascoyne, Ph.D., professor, Department of Imaging Physics, "Antibody-free microfluidic isolation and molecular analysis of circulating cancer cells," $913,709.
Georg Halder, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, "Discovery and validation of novel cancer drug targets through synthetic lethal screening," $963,854.
Vicki Huff, Ph.D., professor, Department of Genetics, "Next generation genomic sequence identification of the 19q familial Wilms' tumor predisposition gene," $558,951.
Larry Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma, "Translational development of novel lymphoma vaccine therapy," $842,104.
Guillermina Lozano, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Genetics, "A single nucleotide polymorphism in Mdm2 regulates p53 activity," $805,546.
Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Systems Biology, "Mechanisms underlying delayed recurrence of ER positive breast cancer: a critical step in the development of effective biomarkers and therapies," $978,679.
Samuel Mok, Ph.D., professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, "Novel angiogenic factor in ovarian cancer microenvironment," $939,821.
Dihua Yu, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, "14-3-3zeta-induced microRNA deregulation in early stage breast cancer progression," $776,401
High-Impact, High-Risk Awards
Zhen Fan, M.D., associate professor, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, "Development of a novel anti-EGFR antibody-protamine recombinant protein for in vivo delivery of small interfering RNAs for cancer therapy," $200,000.
Garth Powis, D.Phil., professor and chair, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, "New treatments for mutant K-Ras: the elephant in the room of cancer therapy," $200,000.
Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., professor, Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, "Cord blood natural killer cells for patients with cancer," $200,000.
You hear many people say that cancer is a marathon, not a sprint.
That's certainly true for patients with ovarian cancer who may face a year of treatment to fight back against one of the most deadly diseases in women. But while many of us can only walk alongside and support loved ones through the long journey, we'd like you to consider a "Sprint" in which everyone can help advance research in ovarian cancer, celebrate survivors and remember those who lost their lives.
It's the 13th annual Sprint for Life 5K Run/Walk and Sprint for Sprouts Kids' Run, which will be held on Saturday, May 1, with proceeds going to the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at M. D. Anderson.
The event begins at 7:30 a.m. on the M. D. Anderson campus with the non-competitive races for children 12 years and younger beginning at 9:15 a.m. The family-friendly, post-race party will feature a presentation and awards ceremony, music, food and beverages, and special recognition of survivors.
Corporate teams, organized groups, individuals and advocates for ovarian cancer research may get additional information or register online at http://www.mdanderson.org/how-you-can-help/community-events/sprint-for-life/index.html. Early registration continues through April 28, though participants also may sign up at the event.
Event organizers hope to raise $400,000 this year with the participation of 2,500 runners and walkers, says Judith Wolf, M.D., professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology, event co-founder and avid runner.
Since 1998, Sprint for Life has raised more than $2.3 million for ovarian cancer research at M. D. Anderson.
By DeDe DeStefano, Staff Writer
Our patients are inspirational, courageous fighters. With each one, I am reminded of the journey I made alongside my mother 11 years ago, as if it were yesterday. Each July we celebrate the end of her treatment as much as we do the day she was born.
On Feb. 18, I had the opportunity to work at an M. D. Anderson event honoring cancer patients everywhere -- celebrating with those who survived their cancer and mourning with family and friends of those who did not. Some of these patients are my colleagues. Some are friends. And some I'd just met. Some told their stories. Others listened and applauded. Everyone cried.
These patients are my heroes. They are why I love my job. Although I am not in direct patient care, I have the honor of telling their stories. Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up and worry about them, just like I know their care teams do, and I think it's like that with everyone here.
The evening's purpose was to thank the philanthropic donors who have made a difference in the lives of our patients and announce that M. D. Anderson is raising $1 billion to continue that work. Although the celebration thanked donors, the focus was not on the donors themselves, but rather the reason behind the gifts. Testimony after testimony was given -- some planned, others not. From Jeff Wigbels, a non-smoking athlete who learned he had stage IV metastatic lung cancer the day before his son was born, to "America's Got Talent" lymphoma survivor Barbara Padilla, whose operatic voice brought down the house, there was not a dry eye in the room.
In his opening remarks, M. D. Anderson President John Mendelsohn, M.D., paid tribute to Bob Mosbacher, who recently lost his battle with cancer. Mosbacher was the only person to chair M. D. Anderson's Board of Visitors twice. "Bob worked hard to bring national attention and critically needed resources to M. D. Anderson, and did so with the modesty and quiet charm for which he is so admired. He was a great personal friend to Anne and me, and we miss him terribly," he told the audience, which included members of Mr. Mosbacher's family.
Originally slated to serve as master of ceremonies, CNN's Sanjay Gupta, M.D., had to regretfully cancel due to his participation in the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Former Miss America Phyllis George stepped in graciously and offered her own personal story with the institution, though we did not know she had one when we asked her to take part. A dear friend was misdiagnosed elsewhere (twice) and ultimately came to M. D. Anderson, where he survived six years. "If he had come to M. D. Anderson first, I have no doubt he'd still be alive today," she said tearfully. She then paid tribute to the patients in the room whose stories were told in the campaign brochure, including Patsy Bodie who struggled with pancreatic cancer for 10 years. The entire room of 600 held a moment of silence for Patsy, who lost her battle with the disease 22 days before the event.
The tribute continued with the spectacular voices of the Houston Five Tenors' performance of "Amazing Grace" joined by St. Thomas' Episcopal School Pipe Band's bagpipes.
Memorial Drive Presbyterian senior pastor Rev. Dave Peterson offered his own testimonial before delivering the invocation. He spoke about his young daughter who, just weeks after getting married, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She came to M. D. Anderson for treatment.
After dinner, Board of Visitors Chair Nancy Loeffler welcomed board and Advance Team members and campaign chair Harry Longwell encouraged guests to spread the word about the need for philanthropic funding for cancer research programs.
After an extraordinary performance of "Ave Maria" by Barbara Padilla, eight patients on eight miniature stages around the room's perimeter gave a moving tribute to cancer patients everywhere as the program's finale. One by one, they were spotlighted, each telling his or her story and each physically striking out the word "cancer" on a screen behind him or her. Barbara Padilla struck hers out on the main ballroom stage and gave a closing rendition of "The Prayer" with one of the five tenors, Ken Gayle.
All in all, it was an evening of hope. Not everyone has survived cancer, but everyone had such an extraordinary story of what this terrible disease does. So many people are fighting cancer, and so many more are fighting with all they have to cure it, whether that means in a lab, in a clinic or with a checkbook.
It was hopeful and moving and quite honestly one of the best evenings I've ever had the privilege to be a part. I think everyone left the event with an understanding of the urgency of the problem of cancer and the compelling desire to do more.
Web site - www.makingcancerhistorycampaign.org
Facebook - The Campaign to Transform Cancer Care
These are the stories of the eight finale participants.
Victoria Johnson is a survivor of more than 11 years of stage IV breast cancer with metastases to all major organs, including her brain. After being extremely conscientious for years about annual mammograms and additional precautionary ultrasounds, Victoria was diagnosed with the late-stage cancer and told that she had approximately 1½ years to live. Searching for hope, Victoria came to M. D. Anderson. She has since had seven brain tumors successfully removed and credits ongoing Herceptin® treatments with enabling her to live a full life. Victoria has repeatedly given her awe-inspiring testimonial to audiences at M. D. Anderson events. Passionate about enjoying each cherished day, she appeared in the CNN video "Taming the Beast," quoting her grandmother: "It's time to use the good china. Enjoy life!"
An M. D. Anderson employee for five years, Nikita is a senior research coordinator in the Department of Health Disparities. She also is a four-year colon cancer survivor and a contributing member of the Employee Cancer Support Group. Nikita says her illness has influenced her perspective of her work, and she is eager to educate others about the institution. Within months of diagnosis, her mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer and her grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Neither survived. Nikita says that her insight gained as a patient and employee enabled her to be a vessel of support for her loved ones through their own cancer battles. Nikita says, "I am a real survivor, and for them -- to honor them -- I have to do this. I feel so honored to represent all the survivors at this institution."
Kenneth is a 17-year Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, and a 6 /2-year acute myelogenous leukemia and stem cell transplant survivor. Kenneth has many ties with
M. D. Anderson. He is a longtime volunteer with the Anderson Network and routinely supports its members in their time of need. Kenneth chaired the 2009 Anderson Network steering committee and will chair the 2010 Anderson Network Living With, Through and Beyond Cancer Conference. Thoughtfully helping others touched by cancer is a priority in Kenneth's life, and he is quiet but passionate about doing so, helping not only other patients but also their caregivers. Because of Kenneth's cancer experience, he, wife Clara, and daughters Ashley and Kimberly have made the words "be a channel of blessings to others" their family motto.
Janice is a 10-year breast cancer survivor and three-year metastatic cancer survivor. Soft-spoken and serene, she chaired Anderson Network's 2007 annual patient conference of 500 attendees while going through radiation treatments for brain metastasis. She adopted the conference theme, Power of Hope, to describe herself: "We who have cancer must believe in the power of hope. M. D. Anderson has given me hope for the strongest and longest survivorship." Janice volunteers at various conferences, with the Telephone Outreach Program for Breast Cancer and with the American Cancer Society. She and her husband, Rogers, have three sons. Janice credits Rogers, who established the Lean on Me Caregivers Group to support others who care for loved ones facing cancer, with being her strength.
Nadia Jones may only be 5 years old, but she's an experienced driver of a pint-sized pink power-wheels Ford Mustang, which she thoroughly enjoys. She is being treated for rhabdomyosarcoma in the Children's Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, and attends kindergarten in Richmond, Texas. Nadia's mother, Brandie, says that despite the numerous obstacles Nadia has encountered since birth, she has always managed to maintain an extremely positive outlook on life.
Diagnosed with stage IV melanoma in 2006, Jason has been a survivor for three years. He generously and passionately shares his story of diagnosis, intense treatment and survival, emphasizing the importance of philanthropic funds and their role in advancing the therapy that helped save his life. Jason was one of three cancer patients honored as Person of the Week on "ABC World News" in 2008. The joy of Jason's life is his adorable son, Jacob, 5. "I'm happier now than I have ever been. I'm happier now than I was before I got sick," Jason says.
Diagnosed in Mexico at age 4, Jaime had osteosarcoma that returned every two years for 17 years. His parents brought him to Houston when he was 7, and after other hospitals could do no more, Jaime, by then a teenager, came to M. D. Anderson. Jaime survived 18 surgeries on his leg, often enduring hospital stays alone while his mother returned home to South Texas to care for his nine brothers and sisters. Jaime has been cancer-free for 22 years, beginning in 1988, when he became an M. D. Anderson employee. "They saved my life, so as long as I'm alive, I will be part of this team's mission to end cancer," he says. Jaime also volunteers on M. D. Anderson's Diversity Council, as an Anderson Network Ambassador and as a caring guide to pediatric patients faced with losing a limb.
Kay is a 38-year breast cancer survivor and 21-year colorectal survivor. She has inspired others through 34 years of volunteer service with new volunteers, the Children's Art Project card program and the children's Health Adventures program. She is a motorcyclist and began the Ride for Life for Anderson Network's annual patient conference, served 18 years on the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation's Ride for Kids task force and supports the Harley's Angels calendar fundraiser. Kay is retiring soon from her accountant position at Northwest Honda but plans to continue her active lifestyle. Recently, she skydived and hopes to jump again with her husband for her 80th birthday next month. Kay lost her daughter, Patricia Rahl, one year ago to endometrial cancer and today honors her along with all those who did not conquer cancer, yet contributed greatly to the mission to eradicate it.
Four new approaches to treating lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) will move from the lab to early clinical trials under a federal grant to M. D. Anderson. The grant brings together basic and translational scientists, clinical
investigators, hematopathologists and biostatisticians on four projects.
Project director and principal investigator Anas Younes, M.D., says "translating these promising targeted therapies into the clinic extends our progress toward developing drugs that are more effective and gentler on our patients.
What is a SPORE?
Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grants from the National Cancer Institute are designed to advance basic and preclinical discoveries into early stage clinical trials, a difficult step in drug development. Translational research is a strength at M. D. Anderson, which now has 12 SPOREs, the most of any institution.
Epigenetic therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma
Epigenetic factors regulate gene behavior without altering or damaging the gene's DNA by adding or removing chemical groups that attach to genes like bookmarks. Younes and co-principal investigator Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Immunology, hypothesize that epigenetic therapy could affect Hodgkin lymphoma two ways: directly by inhibiting growth of malignant cells and indirectly by triggering an anti-tumor immune response.
They will test several new drugs that regulate gene expression by targeting enzymes that chemically alter histone and non-histone proteins for safety and efficacy in relapsed and resistant Hodgkin lymphoma. The same drugs also will be tried in combination with another epigenetic drug that turns on genes by stripping methyl groups from them. The team will conduct lab experiments to design second-generation combination clinical trials.
Testing a novel agent for CLL and lymphoma
Scientists at M. D. Anderson and Northwestern University have developed a unique drug that will be the first of its type to be tested in the clinic. Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Experimental Therapeutics, has developed an RNA nucleoside analogue, an artificial version of one of the building blocks of RNA. The drug inhibits synthesis of messenger RNA, which is produced by genes to tell a cell's protein-making machinery which protein to make.
Clinicians on the project, led by co-principal investigator Peter McLaughlin, M.D., professor in the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma, will conduct a Phase I clinical trial for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The team will use biomarkers to evaluate the drug's activity and staying power, develop rationales for clinical trials combining the drug with other agents and test it in lymphoma cell lines for translation into a lymphoma clinical trial.
Activating an important tumor suppressor
The protein p53 stifles cancer development by ordering abnormal cells to kill themselves. It is silenced in more than half of blood cancers by overexpression of the HDM2 gene. The research team has shown that inhibiting HDM2/p53 interaction causes programmed cell death in Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and in acute myeloid and chronic lymphocytic leukemias when the p53 gene is not mutated.
A team led by principal investigator Michael Andreeff, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Stem Cell Transplantation, and co-principal investigator Susan O'Brien, M.D., professor in the Department of Leukemia, will test the effects of Nutlin 3a, a small-molecule inhibitor of HDM2, in a Phase I clinical trial for CLL. They also will identify the mechanisms of programmed cell death induced by the drug in lymphoma and CLL.
Targeted therapy in peripheral T-cell lymphoma
T-cell and natural killer cell lymphomas have poor clinical outcomes with current treatment but are so rare that only small studies have been performed to understand the disease. In this project, researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center will conduct gene expression profiling on samples from 1,320 cases contributed by an international consortium they have assembled.
Genome expression profiling will be used to define the molecular characteristics of both types of lymphoma, identify pathways that may contribute to lymphoma development and evaluate novel treatments based on their findings. The project, led by principal investigator John Chan, M.D., professor of microbiology and pathology, and co-principal investigator Julie Vose, M.D., professor of internal medicine, will then perform clinical trials in patients with relapsed T-cell and NK-cell lymphomas using agents that hit the cancer-causing pathways.
Renowned artist Peter Max will donate a custom portrait to benefit the Children's Art Project at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Peter Max, who capitalized on the psychedelic '60s and is still painting today, loves to combine his passions for painting and astronomy. In November, he will jet his way to the Off the Wall Gallery in the Houston Galleria where a special selection of his recent works, "Colors of a Better World," will be on display.
Max, who was born in Germany, still finds himself fascinated by his original interest in the universe and astronomy. He explains that the comparison of the size of a person to the size of the earth is an incredible thought. "I'm just amazed at this universe and still wonder how it happened," he says.
However, a chance invitation to attend art school got in the way of his desire to be an astronomer. "I went to art school and got the bug," Max explains. However, his artwork is filled with suns and moons and stars, all astronomical images.
Based in New York City, Max says that he can't wait to get to work each morning and always hates to leave. Fortunately, he lives near his studio where he comes in daily to paint.
Along the way, Max also discovered his philanthropic side. To that end, he's donating the painting of a custom portrait to a lucky bidder in a silent auction at the Off the Wall Gallery. Bids may be placed at the Houston gallery beginning Saturday, Nov. 7, and continuing through Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m.
The winner of the portrait will be notified at the event or by phone on Monday, Nov. 16. All proceeds from this auction will go directly to the Children's Art Project at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to help make life better for children with cancer. Through worldwide sales of young cancer patients' original artwork featured on seasonal note cards and gifts as well as through generous donations, the project has funded offerings from the Children's Cancer Hospital such as educational programs, college scholarships, summer camps, ski trips, the Child Life program and other exciting activities that benefit cancer patients and their families.
Don't miss this chance to see the recent work of Peter Max. Previews of the art begin Nov. 7 at the Off the Wall Gallery in the Houston Galleria. Max himself will be at the gallery on Saturday, Nov. 14, 6-9 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 15, 1-4 p.m. The gallery would appreciate an RSVP, 713-871-0940, if you plan to come by.