LLS CEO and President Louis J. DeGennaro speaks out about coming off a “phenomenal” year and what we can look forward to in 2016. He shares his optimism about a future with no chemotherapy, the use of the word “cure,” the increasing promise of immunotherapy, and the potential of having hundreds of compounds in development.
Six top topics that will be important for blood cancer patients and families:
- Precision Medicine. We’re continuing the track toward precision medicine, which means “the right treatment for the right person at the right time.” People may actually be able to forego toxic chemotherapy and instead benefit from targeted drugs prescribed based on one’s individual genetic make-up in the not-too-distant future. This is the goal of LLS’s groundbreaking BEAT AML initiative, which you’ll be hearing more about in coming months.
- Cures. At the recent American Society of Hematology meeting, where leading researchers shared their most recent advances, it was very encouraging to hear experts using a four-letter word when it comes to blood cancers -- “cure”! That was a word people shied away from for years but now we are starting to see it as a real possibility for many diseases.
- Speaking Out. This is a year for patients and families to make their voices heard. Among the many issues that will be incredibly important to patients and the future of blood cancer legislation are the 2016 presidential election, further discussion of the federal Affordable Care Act, and the upcoming re-authorization of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Prescription Drug User Fee Act, the major framework under which most new drug products in the U.S. are reviewed.
- Patient Communities. LLS is activating a community web platform in January that will allow patients to connect with one another as well as receive articles, research news, and real-time information relevant to their particular disease. Participants will also be encouraged to speak out about issues and their responses will help guide LLS’s new programs and initiatives.
- Immunotherapy. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy, where immune system T-cells are removed from the body and reprogrammed to track down tumor cells, will continue to make headlines. Pioneered in leukemia research, this technology is now being tested for lymphoma and myeloma, as well as other cancers such as breast, colon and prostate. Three years ago, there were only a handful of clinical CAR-T trials and they were all for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Today, you’ll find several dozen trials at www.clinicaltrials.gov underway.
- New Drugs. America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are currently developing 836 new medicines and vaccines for cancer, all of which are in clinical trials or awaiting review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More than 300 are for blood cancers! While many may not make it to the market phase, the numbers are proof of the pharmaceutical industry’s engagement. This increased interest can only lead to progress similar to what we saw with myeloma this year when five new drugs were FDA approved.
All of us at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society wish patients and their families, as well as all our dedicated and generous supporters, a happy and healthy new year!