Visit this page often to hear how our community of donors, clinicians, researchers, and patients are helping Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund Defy Cancer.
New York Times Highlights Dana-Farber’s Extraordinary Care
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was prominently featured in a recent New York Times article by Gina Kolata about new treatments that go beyond traditional chemotherapy—such as immunotherapies and targeted drugs—and how these approaches can improve outcomes and reduce side effects for patients. Learn More.
Glioblastoma patient inspires others to move, to advance treatment for rare disease
In July 2021, Heather Walker, a fun-loving wife and mom of two, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, after a horrible headache landed her in the emergency room. Despite the shocking news, she immediately decided not to dwell on it, but rather to make the best of it while making a difference at the same time. She soon became a Jimmy FundRaiser and the Move 4 Heather Challenge was born. Move 4 Heather is an effort to raise funds for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund while inspiring folks to do things they’ve never thought they’d do,...
In July 2021, Heather Walker, a fun-loving wife and mom of two, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, after a horrible headache landed her in the emergency room. Despite the shocking news, she immediately decided not to dwell on it, but rather to make the best of it while making a difference at the same time. She soon became a Jimmy FundRaiser and the Move 4 Heather Challenge was born.
Move 4 Heather is an effort to raise funds for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund while inspiring folks to do things they’ve never thought they’d do, from swimming with sharks to trying a new food, hiking, and everything in between. Donors are encouraged to pick something from their bucket list that moves them, share it on social media with the hashtag #m4h, donate to the Heather Walker Fund, and challenge three friends to participate and donate. To date, friends and strangers alike have answered the call, raising more than $180,000.
“It has always been inherent in my personality to give back,” Heather says. “I lost my dad to leukemia when I was 17 and my mom recently went through breast cancer. I have a strong platform and I am happy to use it to make a difference and help the many people battling this disease.”
“I feel gratified knowing that people are reaching into their own bucket lists and doing something that moves them,” continues Heather, who played basketball in college and loves spending time outdoors skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, and more. “The love and support that everyone has shown fills my heart and is beyond words.”
Since her diagnosis, Heather has taken time off from her job as Vice President of Public Relations for the Boston Celtics to receive three long months of treatment, including surgery to remove the tumor followed by six weeks of daily radiation treatment, which her husband, Stephen, drove her to each day. The hour-long drive from Marblehead took a lot out of them both, but their family and community stepped up to hold down the fort for them and their two daughters, Samantha and Taylor. The couple celebrated the end of every treatment week with a Friday night beer in Beacon Hill, often joined by some Celtics colleagues.
Money raised by Heather’s community through Move 4 Heather will support the Heather Walker Glioblastoma Fund at Dana-Farber, under the direction of her oncologist, David Reardon, MD, clinical director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology. Dr. Reardon and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are exploring immunotherapy solutions to treat glioblastoma, including the vaccine therapy with which Heather is currently being treated. Based on each patient’s unique tumor and DNA, the goal is to boost the immune system, so if Heather’s tumor does come back, as glioblastoma typically does, her cells will be ready to identify it and attack it. Her age, otherwise healthy body, and the size of her tumor made her a perfect candidate for the clinical trial.
Historically, glioblastoma has been difficult to treat with immunotherapy, because of the few immune cells that exist within the brain tumor. Personalized neoantigen vaccines cause immune T-cells to move into the tumor, and a checkpoint inhibitor, an immunotherapy drug, then releases the “brakes” on the immune system, allowing T-cells to attack the tumor. This type of neoantigen vaccine was first pioneered by Catherine Wu, MD, a Lavine Family Chair for Preventative Cancer Therapies at Dana-Farber, and has been successful in providing long-lasting anti-tumor response for patients with melanoma.
“This trial could be a gamechanger and save the lives of many people battling glioblastoma,” Heather says. “People are dying every day from this disease, and Dana-Farber has the talent and resources to fight it. Cancer is a team effort, and I know I have the best team.”
Heather has seen an outpouring of support from the Boston community these past few months, particularly from her colleagues at the Celtics. Current and past players, front office staff, and communications colleagues have shared messages of love and strength along the way, and are helping to spread the word about Move 4 Heather.
“I feel so fortunate to work for a company that treats me like family—from phone calls to texts, in-person visits, donations, and even an extraordinary birthday video from the whole team, including past Celtics players like Paul Pierce, Shaq, and others,” she recalls. “It warmed my heart, brought tears to my eyes, and emboldened me to continue this fight.”
Today, Heather is still in treatment, but feeling well and excited to keep moving—for herself, her family, and everyone battling glioblastoma. She plans to cross a few items off her own bucket list soon, but for now, she loves being able to see what others are doing. “If I’m having a bad day, looking through what people are doing and watching their videos and photos, it helps me get through everything. It inspires me.”
Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research $25M gift to accelerate cancer research through collaboration of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT
The Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research has pledged $25 million to the Bridge Project, a collaborative research program of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT (KI), to transform drug discovery and early-stage development. As part of this commitment to the Bridge Project, The Commonwealth Foundation gift will propel “Expansion Grants,” which fund projects being readied for clinical testing or that are already in the clinic. It will also place a significant focus on projects that accelerate therapeutic drug development, stimulating research on traditionally challenging classes of cancer drug targets and/or on more conventional targets found in rarer...
As part of this commitment to the Bridge Project, The Commonwealth Foundation gift will propel “Expansion Grants,” which fund projects being readied for clinical testing or that are already in the clinic. It will also place a significant focus on projects that accelerate therapeutic drug development, stimulating research on traditionally challenging classes of cancer drug targets and/or on more conventional targets found in rarer forms of cancer.
The gift builds on a previous investment of $20 million in 2015 from the Commonwealth Foundation to the Bridge Project. To amplify the impact of this new gift, DF/HCC and MIT will match these funds over the next five years, resulting in a combined $50 million expansion of the Bridge Project.
The Bridge Project, launched in 2011, funds cross-institutional and interdisciplinary teams of cancer scientists, engineers, and clinicians to solve long-standing problems in the most intractable cancers. The program was designed to integrate advanced cancer science research at both institutions by leveraging MIT’s strengths in basic cancer research and bioengineering, and DF/HCC’s strengths in clinical cancer research and cancer care. As such, each team is co-led by at least one MIT investigator and one DF/HCC investigator.
The Bridge Project links the cancer research efforts of MIT and DF/HCC—Massachusetts’ two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers. The Koch Institute is an NCI-designated basic laboratory cancer center, and DF/HCC is an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center that unites the cancer research efforts of Harvard’s five principal affiliated hospitals and two health science schools.
“We are deeply appreciative to the Commonwealth Foundation and the Goodwin Family for their continuing generosity. Their commitment is a reflection of the world-class innovation taking place through the Bridge Project, a collaboration that is changing lives through science,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, president and CEO, Dana-Farber, and director, DF/HCC. “This support will fund high-impact research and drug development to offer new solutions to patients.”
“We are very proud to continue our support of the Bridge Project, which brings together the brightest minds in cancer research and care to develop new approaches and therapeutics for patients,” said Bill Goodwin, chair of the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research. “Through this contribution, we hope to amplify our impact by inspiring other families to support this innovative, collaborative effort.”
The Bridge Project has been led by Tyler Jacks, PhD, founding director of the Koch Institute and the David H. Koch Professor of Biology at MIT; and David Livingston, MD, formerly the Charles A. Dana Chair in Human Cancer Genetics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Emil Frei III Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who passed away unexpectedly on October 17, 2021. His loss is felt deeply across the entire cancer research community, and Dana-Farber leadership remains committed to the Bridge Project and the impactful, collaborative science that is part of Dr. Livingston’s legacy.
“We very much look forward to the opportunities that the Commonwealth Foundation’s new gift creates to focus on direct translational studies and developing novel treatments,” said Jacks. “Their support, along with contributions they have inspired others to make, have been essential to our formation of a highly effective Greater Boston network for applying basic research and technological advances to clinical questions and challenges.”
“Since 2011, the Bridge Project has enabled us to bring together the best of cancer science and engineering, funding dozens of multidisciplinary teams that have made great strides in innovative cancer research,” said Livingston before his passing. “We thank the Commonwealth Foundation for their transformative contribution and continued partnership as we continue to rapidly develop new ways to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Establishes the David Liposarcoma Research Initiative
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced that The Rossy Foundation has committed $10 million to establish the David Liposarcoma Research Initiative. The five-year initiative will spearhead groundbreaking research into liposarcoma at Dana-Farber and external collaborating partner institutions, with the aim of transforming the treatment of this rare, underfunded, and understudied disease in order to improve care of patients through research. The Rossy Foundation and KBF CANADA have partnered to fund the first phase of the initiative. This commitment from The Rossy Foundation will focus on collaborative research among various departments at Dana-Farber—including liposarcoma biology, biochemistry, immunology, metabolism, genomics, and epigenetics. By conducting research...
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced that The Rossy Foundation has committed $10 million to establish the David Liposarcoma Research Initiative. The five-year initiative will spearhead groundbreaking research into liposarcoma at Dana-Farber and external collaborating partner institutions, with the aim of transforming the treatment of this rare, underfunded, and understudied disease in order to improve care of patients through research. The Rossy Foundation and KBF CANADA have partnered to fund the first phase of the initiative.
This commitment from The Rossy Foundation will focus on collaborative research among various departments at Dana-Farber—including liposarcoma biology, biochemistry, immunology, metabolism, genomics, and epigenetics. By conducting research to improve fundamental understanding of the molecular mechanisms of this disease, the initiative may lead to new approaches to overcome treatment resistance, as well as new strategies for clinical research to improve the outcomes of liposarcoma patients worldwide. The overall research initiative will be led by George Demetri, MD, director of the Sarcoma Center, senior vice president for Experimental Therapeutics, and Quick Family Chair in Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber.
“We appreciate The Rossy Foundation’s very generous commitment, as well as their recognition of the strength of Dana-Farber’s exceptional portfolio of basic science and clinical research programs to mobilize our world-class Sarcoma Center. This support will fund robust and much needed research against this rare disease,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, president and CEO, Dana-Farber.
“The Rossy Foundation is proud to make this meaningful contribution toward better treatments for liposarcoma, which affects more than 4,000 patients in the United States and Canada every year. Our hope is that this initiative, under the direction of Dr. George Demetri, will drive breakthroughs that not only transform the landscape of liposarcoma research, but most importantly help extend and enhance the lives of patients across the globe,” said Gregory J. David, Vice-Chair of The Rossy Foundation.
The David Liposarcoma Research Initiative collaboration will start by bringing together the teams of 11 principal investigators from four institutions—Dana-Farber, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. These investigators will work together on an interconnected portfolio of projects that builds upon the virtuous cycle of discovery, validation, and clinical testing with correlative science to stimulate continuous discovery: from bench to patient and back to the lab bench. Dana-Farber will be the lead and coordinating institution for this new initiative.
The initiative will also include engagement of a renowned panel comprising the international Scientific Advisory Board. The commitment also establishes the David Liposarcoma Research Initiative International Scientific Symposium in basic, translational, and clinical liposarcoma research. This symposium will enable the team to share results, guide the development of clinical trials in years three through five, and have a global influence to stimulate new collaborations in this field.
“The visionary and forward-looking support from The Rossy Foundation will greatly enhance our understanding of the underlying biology, genomics, epigenetics, immunologic, and other mechanistic characteristics of liposarcomas,” said Demetri. “It is our hope that the new research collaborations made possible by this commitment will ultimately lead to better therapeutic options for patients diagnosed with this rare disease."
Cancers known as sarcomas develop from stem cells and connective tissues, such as muscle, fat, and bone, that hold the body together. Liposarcomas can appear anywhere on the body; they originate from precursors of fat cells that develop abnormally into cancerous growths as a result of genetic mutations in the sarcoma cells but not the rest of the person’s body. Sarcomas are rare, accounting for about 1% of cancers in adults. There are more than 250 subtypes of sarcomas: the sarcoma known as GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor) is the most common, but liposarcoma is the next most common. Although work from Dr. Demetri and colleagues in Dana-Farber’s Sarcoma Center have led to revolutionary therapies for GIST and some moderately effective FDA approved therapies for liposarcomas, such as trabectedin and eribulin, new therapies are needed to improve patient outcomes in liposarcomas and other types of sarcomas.
The Sarcoma Center at Dana-Farber sees more than 1,000 newly referred patients each year, including hundreds of patients with liposarcoma. Many patients partner with the Sarcoma Center to advance research by providing clinical data, banking tumor samples, and participating in clinical studies. The center’s tumor bank includes thousands of samples, which are shared for analysis across institutions. Additionally, the Sarcoma Center has an extensive regulatory-compliant infrastructure and experience working with the FDA to design academic clinical trials under its own authority and in collaboration with biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry colleagues on an international scale. Over the past two decades, the Sarcoma Center’s work has been instrumental to changing the landscape of treatment for sarcomas, such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors and leiomyosarcoma—including FDA approval of 10 new sarcoma indications for novel drugs.
This commitment supports The Dana-Farber Campaign, an ambitious $2 billion multi-year fundraising effort that will accelerate success and help Dana-Farber defy cancer through investments in revolutionary science, extraordinary care, exceptional expertise, and essential opportunities.
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Founded in Boston in 1947, Dana-Farber is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a federally designated Comprehensive Cancer Center that develops and disseminates innovative patient therapies and scientific discoveries throughout the world. About Our Patient Stories: Dana-Farber shares patient stories which may include descriptions of actual medical results. Dana-Farber provides personalized care for each patient based on their unique needs; their experiences and results will vary.
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