PRA is a recognized leader for hematology and oncology trials, conducting more than 300 in the last five years resulting in the market approval of 16 new drugs. Learn more here. We're a proud corporate sponsor of this year's Leukemia and Lymphoma Society gala.
Every year, an estimated 60,000 people in the United States alone are diagnosed with leukemia. Another estimated 80,000 are diagnosed with lymphoma. Organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are committed to supporting patients, their families...but equally committed and determined to find a cure.
Executive Director, Emily Blust, explains the LLS's mission -- and introduces two of the kids who represent what they're fighting for.
Tell us about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society—what is the organization’s mission?
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer and the global leader in eradicating these devastating diseases. Our mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
PRA is a recognized leader for hematology and oncology trials, conducting more than 300 in the last five years resulting in the market approval of 16 new drugs. Learn more here. We’re a proud corporate sponsor of this year’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society gala.
What kind of research do you help fund?
As there are no means of preventing or early screening for most blood cancers, the LLS research agenda is focused on finding cures. LLS drives research in areas of unmet medical need and helps to bridge the gap between academic discovery and drug development.
LLS is at the forefront of the fight to cure all cancers. We have invested more than $1.2 billion in research which has led to a doubling, tripling and quadrupling of survival rates in the last 60 years. We are leaders in advancing breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine. These revolutionary new treatments originally discovered through blood cancer research are now being tested in clinical trials for other cancers. We fund research grants to support every discipline in the blood cancers, and we partner directly with biotechnology companies to accelerate therapies.
Any recent exciting research breakthroughs or milestones?
In 2017 the FDA approved 18 new blood cancer treatments and LLS played a role in the development of 15 of these. Among these 18 approvals were four new treatments for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the first in nearly 40 years, and the first ever FDA approved gene therapies. LLS has a significant investment in AML research and is currently leading a master trial to test multiple therapies simultaneously. LLS saw the promise of immunotherapies some two decades ago and has made in investment of over $21 million in research leading to the CAR-T therapy approved last year.
How important is clinical research in your mission?
Clinical research is critical to LLS’ mission to ensure that the best treatments are making it to patients as quickly as possible. Our Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP) is a strategic initiative through which LLS builds business alliances and collaborations with biotechnology companies and academic researchers to speed the development of new therapies and diagnostics. TAP partnerships support the development of innovative compounds, biologics or diagnostics that have the potential to change the standard of care for patients diagnosed with blood cancers. The TAP initiative is designed to identify potential breakthrough therapies, support active clinical trials, and more quickly advance them along the drug development and approval pathway. In addition, LLS provides personalized clinical trial navigation when appropriate.
What are you most proud of that the organization has been able to accomplish?
The LLS investment in immunotherapies, particularly CAR-T therapy, helped make possible the approval of the first-ever gene therapies. These therapies are approved for relapsed and refractory patients, those in the most dire need, providing hope where the standard of care has not been effective.
I am also proud that LLS advocacy and public policy efforts have been an effective voice for patients and their families across the country. We have played a critical role in passing Oral Parity legislation in 42 states, as well as the federal 21st Century Cures and the Childhood Cancer STAR acts.
What is the Man and Woman of the Year event? Tell us more about the 2018 Boy and Girl of the Year in the Triangle.
Man & Woman of the Year is one of LLS’ signature fundraising campaigns to support our research, patient access and advocacy efforts. Candidates are nominated by their friends and colleagues to compete for titles in honor of a local Boy and Girl of the Year in more than 150 communities across the country. Every dollar raised is a “vote” for that candidate and the man and woman with the most votes at the conclusion of the 10 week campaign earn the titles of Man & Woman of the Year. Our Boy and Girl of the Year are local blood cancer patients who provide inspiration and motivation to the candidates and their teams throughout the campaign. The 2018 candidates for Man of the Year are running in honor of 4 year old Selia Powell. In October of 2016, after nearly three months of unexplained injuries, infections and fevers, Selia was diagnosed with b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia less than one week after celebrating her third birthday. Her zest for life and fighting spirit have helped her overcome multiple complications in her first year and a half of treatment. She is a princess to her core and cancer can’t dampen her spirit or her style!
The Woman of the Year candidates are running in honor of 6 year old Colt Rever. Colt was diagnosed with b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in June of 2016 when he was only 4 years old. Colt has always wanted to be a police officer and when a good friend of the family who is a Wildlife Officer visited Colt in the hospital, he brought something very special: a uniform patch. With that Colt decided he wanted to start a collection and the APB for patches went out to the far corners of the earth. Once Colt was released from the hospital and allowed to recuperate at home, the parcels started arriving – boxes full of patches from police officers, EMTs, firefighters, and soldiers from all over the world, some as far as the South Pole. It wasn’t long before the walls in Colt’s room were covered from floor to ceiling.
Both Selia and Colt are still in treatment for their leukemia and they both continue to face challenges. Colt has battled pneumonia and had to have his port replaced not once, but twice just during this short campaign. The strength and endurance of these children is nothing short of amazing and they are a powerful reminder of how critical patient services and research continue to be.
How is money from the event used?
Funds raised by our Triangle candidates and campaigns across the country will help LLS continue our investment in cutting-edge research and support for patients and their families. LLS is currently funding more than $2.3MM in research here in North Carolina, and last year alone we provided $1.9MM in co-pay assistance directly to 791 North Carolinians battling a blood cancer. No of this would be possible without selfless volunteers like our Man & Woman of the Year candidates and generous companies like PRA.
We are proud and grateful to partner with PRA Health Sciences in our shared commitment to patients and clinical development that is making treatment advances possible. Thank you to everyone at PRA who is making a difference in the lives of so many!
We are The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and beating cancer is in our blood, but we can’t do it without you!