Beat AML Initiative Begins
LLS kicked off its Beat AML fundraising initiative with a reception in New York City, featuring Brian Druker, M.D., director, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Knight Cancer Institute, and lead investigator of LLS's groundbreaking collaboration with OHSU.
With treatment options for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) largely unchanged in 30 years. Dr. Druker spoke at the reception about creating a network of collaborators and being open to testing new ideas, including drug combinations. "We can and will do better," Dr. Druker said. "I am confident we will achieve better outcomes for AML patients."
Dr. Druker outlined the scope of the project, which will involve 900 AML patients to create a profile of the molecular drivers of the disease. As the information is gathered, researchers from four medical institutions will simultaneously test the response of patients' leukemia cells to different targeted therapies and novel combinations. The goal is to eventually match patients with treatments that precisely target their leukemia.
Dr. Druker's successful approach to developing Gleevec®, a targeted therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia, and LLS's critical contribution to that effort, are the model for the Beat AML project. To date, LLS has raised $6.1 million toward the initial fundraising goal of $8.3 million as a result of a $4 million gift from the Harry T. Mangurian, Jr., Foundation. The Beat AML project was announced in September 2013, with LLS providing support and funding for Dr. Druker's efforts to find a cure for AML. The project work and LLS's funding will help support and count toward the goals of a more extensive cancer research and fundraising effort by OHSU and led by Dr. Druker. The OHSU campaign to find cures for all cancers was announced with an ad in The Wall Street Journal (pictured bottom right).
The approximately 50 guests in attendance at the Beat AML kickoff last month also heard from Michael Copley, volunteer chair of the Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. Foundation - Beat AML campaign, who lost his daughter, Carley, to AML when she was only three years old. Copley expressed his belief that the Beat AML campaign will bring about change for AML patients and their families. "If anyone can do it, you can Dr. Druker," said Copley. "I believe in hope, in Dr. Druker and in LLS. We can make a difference for people who come after us."
Lou DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS interim president and CEO, and chief mission officer, talked about the need to bring researchers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) together. "From 2001 through 2013, nearly 40 percent of the new anti-cancer treatments approved by the FDA were for blood cancer patients. That's more first approvals than for any other group of cancer patients," noted Dr. DeGennaro.
AML is the most common type of acute leukemia among adults, causing more than 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. It is a particularly devastating blood cancer, with less than 25 percent of newly diagnosed patients surviving beyond five years. The LLS Beat AML collaboration with OHSU is a multi-institution cancer research initiative that brings together scientists from multiple disciplines.
(top photo, left to right: Lou DeGennaro, Ph.D., Brian Druker, M.D., Michael Copley)