Herd of Hope on track to fund a half-million dollar research award

Herd of Hope on track to fund a half-million dollar research award

More than 80 businesses and individuals from across Western New York have sponsored a blue buffalo since the 2018 Herd of Hope kicked off in July, bringing the campaign over 75 percent of its fundraising goal.

This overwhelming outpouring of support puts Herd Hope in position to award a half-million dollar research award to a promising research idea at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

More than 40 members from Roswell Park’s clinical and scientific teams – medical oncologists, geneticists, biophysicists, radiation oncologists, molecular biologists and others – have come together to form multidisciplinary teams. These teams, have pooled their knowledge and expertise to submit proposals for studying new and innovative scientific approaches for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

These teams, or Scientific Task Forces, have submitted their collective ideas for a competitive peer review by senior investigators at Roswell Park. The project that is deemed most promising will receive this half-million dollar research award funded by your support. All of the team projects have an ultimate goal of launching a clinical study that would bring a new therapy developed at Roswell Park to patients’ bedsides.

The Task Force with the winning research idea will be announced in December.

Sponsorships are still available!

Your company still has time to be a part of this historic effort and support this new research! Join the Herd by sponsoring a blue buffalo today.

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Donor Support is Fueling a Historic Clinical Trial at Roswell Park

Donor Support is Fueling a Historic Clinical Trial at Roswell Park

“This could be a game-changer,” said Kelvin Lee, MD, Chair, Department of Immunology at Roswell Park. “It could impact hundreds of thousands of patients in the United States, and potentially millions of individuals worldwide.”

Dr. Lee is talking about CIMAvax-EGF, a treatment for lung cancer developed by the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Cuba. In 2016, Roswell Park announced a partnership with the CIM to bring this groundbreaking lung cancer treatment to the United States for the first time.

The immunotherapy works by targeting a growth factor in the blood that is necessary for cancer to survive. By depleting this growth factor, the cancer starves and its progress slows, prolonging patients’ lives.

“The bottom line is that we know from previous studies that it works for many patients, and the ease of administration — an injection once per month — combined with its inexpensive cost makes it a very promising treatment,” said Dr. Lee. “There is nothing like it, certainly not in the lung cancer field.”

Scientists at Roswell Park are conducting the early phase clinical trials to test the treatment in combination with standard therapy. These studies are required before CIMAvax can be made widely available in the United States.

And the pace of these initial trials is being fueled by generous donor support, with donations to Roswell Park covering the majority of the cost.

“Research really all comes down to funding. The more funding you have, the faster you can do the trials,” said Dr. Lee. “The less funding, the longer it takes.”

The other exciting thing about CIMAvax is that it could potentially be used in the treatment of many other types of cancer — such as colon, head and neck, prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers.

Research dollars raised through the Herd of Hope will be used to fuel the most promising research projects at Roswell Park, and your company can play a part by sponsoring a Herd of Hope buffalo today.

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Fighting Brain Cancer With Community Support

Fighting Brain Cancer With Community Support

John Brennan will tell you that he’s alive now because of a cancer vaccine called SurVaxM.

One late night in June 2016, John had a seizure. It came out of nowhere for the healthy, active retiree. The EMTs who responded to the emergency call thought he’d had a stroke. But an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma had actually been the trigger.

After surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, John came to Roswell Park. His family had learned about a clinical trial testing a vaccine in combination with chemotherapy in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma. “Thank God I met all the criteria,” John says.

He’s been receiving SurVaxM along with chemo through the phase II trial since October 2016. He travels to Buffalo from Syracuse regularly and stays with his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. He says he’s fatigued from chemo but having no side effects from the SurVaxM — and is getting stronger every month.

SurVaxM at Roswell Park

The SurVaxM vaccine was developed right here in Buffalo by Roswell Park faculty members Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and Director of the Neuro-Oncology Program, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Neurosurgery.

SurVaxM targets survivin, a cell-survival protein that’s present in the vast majority of cancers, including glioblastoma. The vaccine is engineered to treat survivin-expressing cancer cells as foreigners, inciting a specific immune response. It has dual mechanisms of action to stimulate a patient’s T-cell immunity and inhibit the survivin pathway to control tumor growth and prevent or delay tumor recurrence. And it does this with fewer side effects than chemotherapy or radiation.

The SurVaxM stage I clinical trial run by Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski here at Roswell Park had promising outcomes — one of the original patients has survived six years — and other hospitals were eager to participate in the stage II trial for newly diagnosed patients. It is being conducted at the Cleveland Clinic, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in addition to Roswell Park, with favorable results once again.

The team presented its initial findings from the phase II trial at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in June.

“These interim phase II trial results in newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients are very promising and offer the potential for longer-term survival in this group where there is great unmet medical need,” says Dr. Fenstermaker. “We believe this drug has the potential to change the glioblastoma treatment paradigm.”

Donations from generous partners and friends have been critical in the vaccine’s development and success, from early seed funding to support for both the phase I and II clinical trials. And the results have great potential well beyond glioblastoma: Evidence so far suggests that SurVaxM could also be effective in melanoma, ovarian and prostate tumors and other survivin-expressing cancers.

The Difference a Clinical Trial Can Make

“If I weren’t on the trial, there’s probably a good chance I would be on the other side of the grass,” John Brennan says. “But I think that it’s really helped me, and hopefully, this SurVaxM will continue to work for many, many years.”

But it’s not just about him. “I entered the trial because I saw it as a way of extending or saving my life, number one. Number two, to help other people. So, I did it for myself and for other people. I appreciate the donors who donate the money for the research, and the brilliant minds at Roswell that can invent these immuno-vaccines.”

Is your company ready to join the Herd of Hope and help more patients like John? Find out more here.

Donations Fund Genetic Testing That Saves Lives

Donations Fund Genetic Testing That Saves Lives

Imagine that your child is sick but no one can tell you what’s wrong.

That’s what happened to Kyle’s parents when he took a strange fall and started having trouble walking. He kept waking up in great pain in the middle of the night, and nothing helped. After multiple hospital visits, an MRI finally found a tumor on his spine.

Surgery and pathology narrowed it down to a rare, unclassified spindle cell tumor — but couldn’t tell anything beyond that. Doctors didn’t know how to treat him.

“I was distraught,” says his mom, Christeana. “I was so upset and so scared, wondering, ‘Am I going to lose my son?’”
Finally, Kyle was sent to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and tested with OmniSeq Comprehensive®. The test discovered a gene mutation that conventional tests had missed. He had an inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor, a type of sarcoma.

What is OmniSeq Comprehensive®?

Developed by Roswell Park researchers in the Center for Personalized Medicine and the cancer center’s precision-medicine spinoff company OmniSeq®, OmniSeq Comprehensive is a diagnostic test that sequences genes of a patient’s tumor biopsy in a search for mutations. Once doctors know about a genetic mutation, they can tailor treatments specifically to that tumor.

Donations to Roswell Park have supported much of OmniSeq Comprehensive’s development. At first, these tests were not covered by insurance. But because donor support helped cover the cost of more than 600 tests for patients who stood to benefit from it, Roswell Park and OmniSeq were able to collect the data needed for insurance carriers to justify broader coverage for Roswell Park patients.

Because OmniSeq found that mutation, Kyle finally received the right drug. Now, the tumor has shrunk remarkably.

Christeana is deeply grateful that donors helped make this diagnosis happen. “I really appreciate the donations because they helped my son. I wish I could say thank you to them.”

Kyle calls his tumor his “monster” and after repeat imaging, asks how his monster is doing.

“When I found out the pill was working and it still is — it’s amazing, it’s a miracle drug to help my son cure this monster,” his mom says.

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center