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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute receives $11M to intercept and cure deadly cancers

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute receives $11M to intercept and cure deadly cancers

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced today it was awarded more than $11 million in grants to intercept cancer at the earliest stages and find cures to several of the deadliest cancers including pancreatic and ovarian cancers, and glioblastoma (GBM) — diseases with poor prognoses in which progress has been slow. This work is funded by Break Through Cancer and is a part of $50 million in grants being made to teams across five cancer research centers: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and...

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced today it was awarded more than $11 million in grants to intercept cancer at the earliest stages and find cures to several of the deadliest cancers including pancreatic and ovarian cancers, and glioblastoma (GBM) — diseases with poor prognoses in which progress has been slow.

This work is funded by Break Through Cancer and is a part of $50 million in grants being made to teams across five cancer research centers: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This new model for collaboration enables researchers to boldly tackle some of the biggest challenges in cancer. Break Through Cancer’s innovative approach will help overcome conventional barriers to multi-institution teamwork by using streamlined systems and advanced analytics for data sharing in real time.

“Break Through Cancer has created a collaborative research model to accelerate progress in some of the most challenging types of cancer,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, president and CEO of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and a member of Break Through Cancer’s Board of Directors. “This unique initiative will allow many of the world’s leading cancer scientists and clinicians to work together seamlessly to drive new discoveries, advance promising new therapies and ultimately deliver improved outcomes for patients.”

All Break Through Cancer-funded projects will employ a model that enables researchers and physicians from each institution to work collaboratively in real time. Additionally, new technology and systems will make data sharing frictionless. Reducing the day-to-day barriers to cross-institutional collaboration such as contract negotiations, data sharing, intellectual property, and rights to authorship will pave the way for faster discoveries.

“Accelerating the pace of discovery requires bringing basic, translational, and clinical investigators together in 'one room,' and Break Through Cancer’s model allows us to do just that,” said Alan D’Andrea, MD Director of Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers and Director of the Center for DNA Damage and Repair at Dana-Farber. “Working collaboratively, we will be tackling several of the most challenging, complex, and lethal cancers and I believe that this work will be transformational to cancer research as a whole.”

Projects have been funded based on their unique cohort of researchers and potentially transformational science. They include:

  • Intercepting Ovarian Cancer
  • Targeting Minimal Residual Disease in Ovarian Cancer
  • Conquering KRAS in Pancreatic Cancer (in partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation)
  • Revolutionizing GBM Drug Development Through Serial Biopsies
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Commemoration to showcase decades of progress and leadership in cancer care and research Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is launching a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary to highlight its history and progress in cancer care and transformative cancer research. In marking the notable anniversary, Dana-Farber seeks to recognize the Institute’s many scientific discoveries, advancements in cancer care for patients, and its extraordinary contributions to eradicating cancer in both children and adults. “From the first remissions with chemotherapy in 1947 to the most recent new immunotherapies, Dana-Farber has helped push progress against cancer for patients, everywhere,” said Dana-Farber President and CEO, Laurie H. Glimcher, MD. “We...

Commemoration to showcase decades of progress and leadership in cancer care and research

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is launching a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary to highlight its history and progress in cancer care and transformative cancer research. In marking the notable anniversary, Dana-Farber seeks to recognize the Institute’s many scientific discoveries, advancements in cancer care for patients, and its extraordinary contributions to eradicating cancer in both children and adults.

“From the first remissions with chemotherapy in 1947 to the most recent new immunotherapies, Dana-Farber has helped push progress against cancer for patients, everywhere,” said Dana-Farber President and CEO, Laurie H. Glimcher, MD. “We celebrate the rich history this anniversary represents, even as we rededicate ourselves to relieve the burden of cancer in the years ahead.” 

Dana-Farber will celebrate the milestone anniversary throughout 2022 with signage around the Longwood Medical Area, a dedicated web hub, social media content featuring historical moments in Dana-Farber history, a workforce celebration, and other events to be announced throughout the year. Other historical initiatives, include a Voices of History video project to capture thoughts and memories from key figures from Dana-Farber’s history.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will also issue a City of Boston Proclamation today, announcing March 30, 2022 as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Day.

“Our work over many decades has been marked by an incredible community of scientists, clinicians, nurses, staff and volunteers, all working together with our patients and families for the best possible outcome today and tomorrow,” said Josh Bekenstein, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “We are grateful for their efforts and dedication to the mission we all share.”

In 1947, Sidney Farber, MD, founded the Children's Cancer Research Foundation, dedicated to providing compassionate, state-of-the-art treatment to children with cancer while developing the cancer preventatives, treatments, and cures of the future.

The foundation officially expanded its programs to include patients of all ages in 1969, and in 1974 became known as the Sidney Farber Cancer Center in honor of its founder. The long-term support of the Charles A. Dana Foundation was acknowledged by incorporating the Institute under its present name in 1983.

Throughout its history, Dana-Farber researchers and physicians have contributed numerous scientific breakthrough in both the understanding of cancer biology and the treatment of the disease across all types of cancer including:

  • 1954: Farber and his colleagues achieve the first remissions of Wilms' tumor, a common form of childhood cancer, and boost cure rates from 40 percent to 85 percent.
  • 1974 Drs. Emil Frei III and Stephen Sallan start the first in an ongoing series of clinical trials for children diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). These trials dramatically improve treatment and play a key role in building toward today's cure rates of 85 to 90 percent.
  • 1996: Institute researchers dramatically advance the understanding of how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, replicates and infects healthy cells. Science magazine heralds this discovery as its "Breakthrough of the Year".
  • 1998: A drug called imatinib (Gleevec), the early work for which was done at Dana-Farber, achieves striking success in many patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
  • 2001: Dana-Farber researchers discover that many cancer cells carry a surface protein called PD-L1, which staves off an attack by immune system T cells. The discovery lays the foundation for immunotherapy drugs.

Over the last decade, Dana-Farber researchers have helped to usher in a new era in personalized cancer treatment using precision medicine, targeted treatments and becoming a world leader in leveraging the human immune system to fight cancer. Advancements have included:

  • Nivolumab (Optivo) becomes the first drug targeting the PD-L1 protein on cancer cells to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug, part of a revolution in cancer immunotherapy, derives from research by Dana-Farber scientists.
  • Officials launch Profile, a research program that enables all adult patients treated at the Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center to have their tumor tissue scanned for genetic mutations known or suspected of being linked to cancer.
  • A personal cancer treatment vaccine that targets distinctive "neoantigens" on tumor cells can stimulate a potent, safe, and precisely targeted anti-tumor response in patients with melanoma, scientists at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute report.
  • Following a clinical trial led by Dana-Farber investigators, the S. Food and Drug Administration grants its first approval for CAR T-cell therapy for adults with multiple myeloma.
  • Dana-Farber scientist William Kaelin Jr., MD, is named a co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into the mechanism by which cells sense and adjust to varying levels of oxygen.
  • Dana-Farber researchers have contributed to the development of 35 of 75 cancer drugs recently approved by the FDA for use in cancer patients.
  • The Institute is internationally renowned for its equal commitment to cutting edge research and provision of excellent patient care.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, a federally designated Center for AIDS Research, and a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, a federally designated comprehensive cancer center. Dana-Farber also maintains affiliations with several schools of nursing in the Boston area.

Dana-Farber is supported by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the generous support of numerous foundations and individuals who contribute to the Institute's individual research and clinic programs or to the Jimmy Fund, the principal charity of the Institute, named for one of its child patients.

For more information on Dana-Farber’s 75th anniversary, visit www.dana-farber.org/75

Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation makes $40 million transformative grant to further multiple myeloma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation makes $40 million transformative grant to further multiple myeloma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Paula and Rodger Riney of St. Louis, MO, through the Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation, have announced a $40 million grant to support multiple myeloma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The grant represents the largest single award supporting multiple myeloma research in Dana-Farber’s history. The Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation has been a strong supporter of Dana-Farber and with this grant has cumulatively donated nearly $60 million to the Institute. Multiple myeloma is a challenging cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Dana-Farber has been at the forefront of multiple myeloma therapies over the past...

Paula and Rodger Riney of St. Louis, MO, through the Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation, have announced a $40 million grant to support multiple myeloma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The grant represents the largest single award supporting multiple myeloma research in Dana-Farber’s history. The Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation has been a strong supporter of Dana-Farber and with this grant has cumulatively donated nearly $60 million to the Institute.

Multiple myeloma is a challenging cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Dana-Farber has been at the forefront of multiple myeloma therapies over the past two decades, helping to convert myeloma from a fatal disease to a chronic condition for many patients. However, therapeutic resistance and drug-related toxicities continue to take a toll on many patients, underscoring the need for innovative treatments.

“The path to developing new treatments for multiple myeloma is through rigorous research. The most effective way to spur that research is in supporting the scientists doing the complex work. The Riney Family are generous and stalwart supporters, and through this grant and their previous support they continue to make a profound impact on scientific discovery and clinical care. Their leadership will help patients at Dana-Farber and around the world,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, President and CEO of Dana-Farber and the Richard and Susan Smith Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“My own journey as a myeloma patient—and knowing how many others are also living with this disease—has led us to seek out the individuals, teams, and organizations that are on the leading edge of research,” said Rodger Riney. “There is no time to waste in the pursuit of better understanding, treatment, and cures. My family and I feel grateful to be able to support Ken, Paul, and Nikhil and their teams at Dana-Farber who are making incredible inroads. We are humbled by the lifelong dedication that Ken, Paul, and Nikhil bring to myeloma patients suffering from this terrible disease. We hope this gift will inspire others to also support the tremendous work happening every day in Dana-Farber’s labs and clinics.”

This new $40 million grant builds upon ongoing work and will deepen and expand approaches for addressing the most complex challenges in myeloma research and improving patient care. Specifically, this grant will:

  • Renew support for preclinical experiments to identify novel targets and develop new medicines and immune-based therapies for patients;
  • Fund clinical research designed to test novel myeloma therapies, alone and in combination with standard and experimental treatments, to improve patient outcomes; and,
  • Support to co-locate myeloma labs at Dana-Farber to facilitate greater cohesion and collaboration among members of the research team.

“I extend my heartfelt thanks to Paula and Rodger Riney for their unprecedented support of our research to develop novel treatments for multiple myeloma. This very generous grant will fast-forward our translation of basic discoveries to clinical trials, ultimately providing innovative treatments for patients and their families,” said Ken Anderson, MD, program director at Dana-Farber’s Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center and LeBow Institute for Myeloma Therapeutics and Kraft Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Anderson will lead the research efforts supported by this grant in close partnership with Nikhil Munshi, MD, director of Basic and Correlative Science at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center and Kraft Family Chair at Dana-Farber. The grant will also provide support for clinical work led by Paul Richardson, MD, clinical program leader and director of clinical research at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center and RJ Corman Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The Rineys have a strong legacy of supporting multiple myeloma research at Dana-Farber and in 2019 gave a $16.5 million gift to establish the Riney Family Multiple Myeloma Initiative, which has driven groundbreaking research in record time. Examples of recent discoveries by Dana-Farber investigators include:

  • Bringing therapeutic antibodies, which help immune cells find and attack tumors, to patients with multiple myeloma.
  • Leading clinical studies demonstrating the remarkable therapeutic effects of CAR T-cells that have been engineered to target multiple myeloma.
  • Setting the stage for the development of innovative therapies that exploit the unique vulnerabilities of multiple myeloma cells.

Over the past two years, the Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation also made gifts totaling $2.6 million to establish the Riney Family Fund for COVID-19 and Multiple Myeloma Research at Dana-Farber, under Richardson’s direction.

These commitments provide powerful momentum for The Dana-Farber Campaign, an ambitious multi-year $2 billion fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer by accelerating revolutionary science, extraordinary care, exceptional expertise, and essential opportunities.

Dana-Farber Research Advances In Blood Cancers Presented at ASH Annual Meeting

Dana-Farber Research Advances In Blood Cancers Presented at ASH Annual Meeting

Dana-Farber physician-scientists presented results of more than 30 research studies at the 63rd American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, describing advances and challenges in the effort to reduce the toll from blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma. ASH is the world’s most comprehensive hematology event, attracting more than 20,000 specialists. This year’s meeting was held Dec. 11-14 in hybrid form – individuals could attend in person in Atlanta, or virtually by telecommunication. Among topics of particular interest at this year’s meeting were the effects of COVID-19 on blood cancer patients and how patients with blood cancers respond to...

Dana-Farber physician-scientists presented results of more than 30 research studies at the 63rd American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, describing advances and challenges in the effort to reduce the toll from blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma.

ASH is the world’s most comprehensive hematology event, attracting more than 20,000 specialists. This year’s meeting was held Dec. 11-14 in hybrid form – individuals could attend in person in Atlanta, or virtually by telecommunication.

Among topics of particular interest at this year’s meeting were the effects of COVID-19 on blood cancer patients and how patients with blood cancers respond to vaccination; studies of precursor conditions which cause no symptoms but can progress to diseases like myeloma; and clinical trials of new drugs and drug combinations, as well as treatments with immunotherapy and cell therapy agents such as CAR T cells.

In addition to presentations of new research data, Dana-Farber was represented by two faculty members who were recognized with awards. Margaret Shipp, MD, received the Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize for her work in understanding the genomics of Hodgkin lymphoma and its effects on the tumor environment. Donna Neuberg, ScD, received the 2021 Exemplary Service Award for her years of service to ASH and hematology. In addition, Matthew Davids, MD, MMSc, gave a lecture at the ASH Presidential Symposium discussing strategies to inhibit or reactive mutant p53 in acute and chronic hematologic malignancies.

Among the presentations by Dana-Farber investigators at ASH were these:

PROMISE Study Measures Incidence of Myeloma Precursor Condition
The first report of findings from the PROMISE screening study of individuals at high risk for multiple myeloma was included in the official press program at the ASH meeting. This unprecedented study of 7,622 participants revealed that older adults who are Black or who have a close family member with a blood cancer are twice as likely as the general population to have monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS). MGUS is an asymptomatic condition that can progress to multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

The PROMISE results were presented by Habib El-Khoury, MD. Irene Ghobrial, MD, leader of the PROMISE study and head of the Center for the Prevention of Progression of Blood Cancers at Dana-Farber, was the senior author. Ghobrial says that screening of high-risk groups and identifying patients with MGUS could allow for early detection and potentially intervention to slow or prevent the progression of MGUS to myeloma.

Predicting Risks of Smoldering Myeloma Progression
Ghobrial and other Dana-Farber investigators reported on several studies of another condition that is a precursor to myeloma. Known as smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM), this is an asymptomatic condition that is more likely than MGUS to lead to myeloma.

Ghobrial and Romanos Sklavenitis-Pistofidis, MD, presented work identifying novel biomarkers in the immune environment of smoldering myeloma cells that may predict whether patients will respond to treatment with immunotherapy.

On average, smoldering myeloma patients have a 50% chance of progressing to myeloma within the first five years of diagnosis. However, about one-third of patients with SMM are at very low risk for progression. Nikhil Munshi, MD, reported that he and his colleagues developed a model, based on genomic changes in the cells of SMM patients, that can identify these low-risk patients. Munshi, who is director of basic and correlative science at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana-Farber, says the findings are not yet ready for routine clinical use but adds “it is almost time to think about making it routine,” as it would be reassuring to patients found to be a low risk of progression.

In another advance related to smoldering myeloma, Ghobrial reported that by using whole-exome and RNA sequencing, she and her co-investigators identified six genomic subtypes of SMM. When they applied these classification factors to a cohort of 74 SMM patients, they successfully helped predict the risk of progression and time to progression. “Our results underscore the importance of molecular classification in addition to clinical evaluation in better identifying high-risk smoldering myeloma patients,” say the researchers.

Shortened Drug Treatment for CLL Has Long-Term Benefit
Data from a study led by Dana-Farber researchers suggests that a 2 ½-year treatment involving ibrutinib and chemoimmunotherapy can provide deep and lasting remissions of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). These findings could significantly benefit patients who have higher-risk CLL (lacking IGHV mutations) and who typically need to be maintained on the drug ibrutinib as a lifelong therapy.

“We’re very encouraged about the potential of this therapy to generate long-term remissions in a broad population of younger patients with CLL,” says Matthew Davids, MD, MMSc, who presented the study results. The data updated early results from this study of the regimen in 85 patients with previously untreated CLL. Nearly all the patients were in remission at the 16.5-month mark, and the updated results confirm those benefits to be continuing at a median of 40.3 months.

COVID-19 Vaccination and Blood Cancers
The ASH meeting featured a number of reports relating to COVID-19 and patients with blood cancers. A study by Dana-Farber investigators found that vaccination against the COVID-19 virus in patients with multiple myeloma provides some protection against infection with the coronavirus, but to a much lesser degree than the general population of cancer survivors. Senior author Munshi of the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center reported on a study of 818 patients with myeloma who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and an equal number who hadn’t and tracked whether they developed the disease. They also tracked vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).

The researchers found that the estimated effectiveness of the vaccine – its ability to prevent infection with COVID-19 virus – was 5.6% after two doses in patients with myeloma and 27.2% in people with MGUS, compared to 85% in cancer survivors not on treatment in general.

These findings underscore the need for patients with myeloma “to be especially careful – to take social distancing seriously and utilize masking – even if they’ve been vaccinated,” says Munshi.

Additional News

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