The Impact of PMC Funds on Dana-Farber’s Progress
It is a pleasure to share updates on how your hard work and commitment enables exceptional progress at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Last year, your 38th ride raised an unbelievable $51 million to strengthen our shared mission—congratulations on another record-breaking year! It is endlessly inspiring to see the PMC establish ambitious goals and then exceed them year after year. These achievements are possible thanks to the incredible team of riders, sponsors, supporters, and volunteers that always rise to the challenge. Your efforts motivate and empower my colleagues and me to be equally bold and determined as we strive to better understand the drivers of cancer and reduce its burden.
Everyone connected to Dana-Farber is deeply grateful for your extraordinary partnership, which continues to raise more money for charity than any other athletic fundraising event in the country. Since 1980, the PMC has raised $598 million to advance the Institute’s lifesaving mission. This staggering amount demonstrates the integral role that the PMC plays in every step forward we take—every discovery, every new treatment, every milestone. Dana-Farber relies on this consistent financial support to take strategic risks and pursue pioneering research that benefits patients in New England, across the country, and around the world.
I was honored to participate in the PMC for the second time in 2017 and to ride alongside some of Dana-Farber’s most passionate and dedicated supporters.
Together, I have every confidence that we will continue to break new ground in cancer science and address the most intractable challenges in cancer medicine. I am thrilled to share several 2017 highlights made possible by the PMC:
Leading the Way in ResearchThanks to the PMC, physician-scientists at Dana-Farber have access to the flexible funds needed to conduct truly innovative research. Over the past year, our premier faculty members built on recent revolutions in cancer science to identify previously unknown drivers of disease and develop promising novel drugs and treatment approaches.
- Immunotherapy: Dana-Farber is a pioneer in the field of immuno-oncology—a form of care through which investigators leverage the immune system to fight cancer. In fact, Dana-Farber’s Gordon Freeman, PhD, spearheaded research that led to FDA approval of a PD-1 inhibitor to treat melanoma. We have continued to build on this success and expand immunotherapies to help more patients. In 2017, our work enabled critical advances including: a landmark FDA approval of CAR T-cell therapy for adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the first-ever personalized cancer vaccine in a clinical trial for melanoma.
- Precision Medicine: The Institute is a longstanding leader in the pursuit of precision medicine—treatments that target individual cancer-driving mutations. Through our Profile program,we were the first and we remain the only institution that aims to acquire a genetic profile for every patient who walks through our doors. Genomic studies continue to yield critical discoveries and enable more precise care. For instance, Institute research led to FDA approval of a targeted drug to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML)—the first new drug approved for AML in 25 years. Dana-Farber investigators also led the largest clinical study of genetic abnormalities linked to pediatric brain tumorsand discovered that, for the majority of tumors, their genomic alterations could potentially inform diagnosis or treatment decisions.
- Expanding Treatment Options: Dana-Farber is currently involved in more than 900 clinical trials to test new therapies and drug combinations, many of which are only possible due to philanthropy.
- Creative Approaches to Target RAS: The RAS oncogene is linked to many aggressive forms of cancer—including lung, thyroid, and ovarian—but has remained elusive and difficult to target with treatment. Dana-Farber scientists recently made an important breakthrough: In a study that combined two drugs that target key pathways linked to RAS, the Dana-Farber team achieved long-term clinical benefit for patients with RAS-driven cancers.
- Lifestyle Factors: Dana-Farber researchers recently expanded on their previous findings about the associations between nut consumption and cancer outcomes through a multi-institution study, which revealed that eating tree nuts twice per week was associated with significantly reduced risk of disease recurrence and mortality in advanced colon cancer. Our investigators are also exploring the roles of other important lifestyle factors, including exercise and aspirin use.
- Providing Comprehensive Patient Care: Dana-Farber is very unique in that we pursue a 50/50 balance between cancer research and care, which enables rapid translation of findings from the laboratory to the clinic. Leveraging valuable PMC funds, we strive to provide the absolute finest care to address the complete needs of our patients and their families during cancer treatment and survivorship.
- The Patient Experience: We proudly offer critical patient care services, including emotional and psychosocial support, spiritual care, financial assistance, and nutrition counseling. Since these important services may not be covered by insurance, PMC funding ensures we can continue to offer them.
- Risk Assessment: Lynch syndrome is an inherited disorder that is associated with a significantly higher lifetime risk of developing many types of cancer, including ovarian, stomach, and colorectal. Dana-Farber investigators created a simple online assessment tool to help care providers rapidly identify patients who should undergo genetic testing to learn whether they have Lynch syndrome.
- Recognition for Excellence: Among the many honors in 2017 that recognized the outstanding quality of the care we deliver, 101 physicians and surgeons affiliated with Dana-Farber were named in Boston magazine’s “Top Doctors” guide, and Becker’s Hospital Review named us one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America for 2017—not just among cancer centers, but among all hospitals.
- Enabling Critical EnhancementsWe rely on PMC dollars to make enhancements across our campus to help us stay on the cutting-edge of progress. It is hard to believe that Dana-Farber began as a small basement laboratory started by Sidney Farber, MD, and supported by two assistants. Fueled by the PMC, we have continually expanded to accommodate our growing research programs, clinics, and more than 4,500 faculty members and staff.
- Powering Drug Development: PMC funding enabled Dana-Farber’s investment in state-of-the-art laboratory space and technologies to power Dana-Farber’s chemical biology, structural biology, proteomics, and applied cancer science programs. This investment has significantly propelled the Institute’s drug development and translational research efforts. In fact, of the 75 cancer drugs approved by the FDA since 2011, Dana-Farber was deeply involved in nearly half.
- Expanded Patient Services: In 2017, we opened newly relocated and renovated space for the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living, which will offer patients and families a tranquil area for healing through yoga, art, music, acupuncture, and more.
- Bridging the Funding GapThanks to the PMC, we can direct resources to priority programs despite challenges in the federal funding climate.
- Bolstering Fresh Ideas: Since federal funds are typically directed to more advanced stages of research, flexible funds play a crucial role in enabling creative, early-stage studies. This is particularly important for junior investigators, who rely on philanthropy to be able to test their new ideas and advance their work to the point of eligibility for federal support.
- Providing Hope: Research for rare cancers and aggressive forms of disease are often too high-risk to attract funding, yet are areas where new treatment options are desperately needed. Philanthropy provides the resources investigators need to study and uncover critical details about these cancers.
Thanks to the unstoppable PMC community, there are many more advancements in the works and on the road ahead. The hurdles that cancer presents can feel hundreds of miles long, but PMC riders know that with great focus, grit, and the motivation of a shared finish line, obstacles can be overcome. Please know how truly grateful I am to have persistent allies like you at my side as we strive to better treat and support every patient.
|President and CEO|
|Dana-Farber Cancer Institute|