A lifelong Red Sox fan, Steve Lamb says he first became aware of the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber at the age of 5 or 6, long before he had any idea what they did. But both he and his wife Sally have experienced the devastation cancer can cause.
“I have a brother and sister who both passed away from cancer, and two brothers who are cancer survivors,” he says. “On Sally’s side, she has a niece, first cousin, and an aunt and uncle who all passed away from cancer.”
“So there’s been cancer on both sides of the family, lots of it; people who have passed away,” he says. “And there are success stories.”
While the Lambs feel fortunate not to have had pediatric cancers in their family, Steve and Sally established the Lamb Family Fund at Dana-Farber to advance care for children with cancer because, as Sally says, “there’s nothing worse for a parent.”
Their gifts to the individualized cancer therapy protocol (iCAT) program, together with the support of others, have helped bring together Dana-Farber and 11 other cancer centers into a consortium to provide the best precision treatments to more than 600 children across the country with solid tumors. This work is now expanding to learn more about the drivers of sarcomas, including the role of epigenetic mechanisms, and ways to target them with treatment.
The goal is to match patients with the best treatments, find new avenues for drug development, and develop testing that will enable researchers and clinicians to better predict a child’s response to a particular treatment based on their individual cancer.
Steve and Sally are confident that this work could help change lives everywhere.
“I’m so hopeful when information sharing happens in the medical community, not just in New England but around the world,” says Sally.
“Especially in pediatrics,” Steve adds, “because thankfully there are so few cases. The growing database is so important and impressive.”
“A lot of these pediatric cancers are new, they’re different, nobody has ever seen them before,” Steve says.
He recalls a story told by Katherine Janeway, MD, director of clinical genomics at Dana-Farber, about a young boy who traveled internationally to Dana-Farber with a tumor on his hip. “The doctors at Dana-Farber didn’t even know how to classify it or what it was,” he recalls. “But they figured out, ‘OK, it kind of acts like this other one. So let’s see if the same drug that works for that tumor will work for this one.’ And it did!”
“These scientists really believe that cures are possible and they are going to find them,” says Steve. “That helps us to say ‘OK, we want to support that.’”
“It’s easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm,” echoes Sally. “So we’re right on board. We’re their cheerleaders. Let’s do it!”