Since 1993, Hackers for Hope has contributed more than $2,428,850 to Memorial Sloan Kettering, for the Head and Neck Service, the Speech, Hearing and Rehabilitation Center, and breast cancer research. Currently, Hackers for Hope is supporting the Laboratory of Epithelial Cancer Biology, under the direction of Bhuvanesh Singh, MD, PhD. The focus remains on defining new ways to treat patients with cancer. To this end, this team has developed a novel compound that inhibits a gene (SCCRO) that was discovered in the laboratory. The compound works very effectively in the laboratory and is likely to have an impact on multiple different cancers including cancers of the head and neck, lung, esophagus, ovary, and cervix. In addition, laboratory data suggest that this gene plays a role in the microenvironment of many other cancers. The preclinical data suggest that the new compound may have preventative properties. Plans include the exploration of methods by which the compound can be used not only to treat but also to prevent several types of cancer. There is considerable interest in this compound and patents have been filed both nationally and internationally.
In addition, exciting advances in immunotherapy have led to the development of novel agents that harness a person’s own immune system as a form of therapy against their cancer. These exciting new therapies have recently shown significant advantages over conventional chemotherapy in our patients afflicted with recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
Futhermore, the Head and Neck surgical team continues to be leaders in the use and implementation of minimally invasive approaches to remove tumors in the head and neck. Robotic surgery has made a significant impact on how we treat certain cancers—perhaps most notably for oropharyngeal cancer, which is on the rise because of human papilloma virus (HPV). With nearly 40,000 people diagnosed annually with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers, robotic surgery offers patients a far less invasive approach with minimal morbidity.
Hackers for Hope has helped us to undertake an active investigation in the development of quality-of-life measures. We are currently looking at issues including quality of life, speech, swallowing and disfigurement in patients with head and neck cancer. The ability to better quantify patient’s perception of their own condition and disability will allow for more meaningful measures, as we investigate these conditions in the future.
Additional gifts from Hackers for Hope helped to support breast surgeon Alexandra S. Heerdt, MD, MPH. Dr. Heerdt is investigating the use of exercise to help control weight gain in women who are undergoing chemotherapy and to help prevent lymphedema in women. She and team members are making great strides in identifying genetic changes (mutations) that are unique to subpopulations of tumor cells, and to developing new therapeutics to target these mutations.
From 2000-present, the Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital has opened 335 research studies and enrolled 1652 patients onto clinical trials.
The clinical trials offered to Stamford and surrounding communities enable patients to access the same novel treatments here that used to be found only at the nation’s major cancer centers.
In 2000 the cancer center had seven research investigators and today there are twenty-one qualified clinicians specializing in medical oncology, hematology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology and radiology.
Currently the center has a National Cancer Institute trial from 2000 that is still actively monitoring six patients, which is an example of the long-term follow-up that occurs with today’s studies. This is also an example of the tremendous increase in survivorship for cancer patients.
Some of the clinical trials supported by Hackers for Hope have led to new treatment drugs on the market, new indications and/or assuring their effectiveness.
Abiraterone Acetate (ZYTIGA)
Ado Trastuzumab Emtansine (Kadcyla®)
Doxorubicin HCl liposome injection (DOXIL®)
Epoetin alfa (PROCRIT ®)
Erlotinib hydrochloride (Tarceva®)
Paclitaxel poliglumex (Xyotax®)
Zoledronic Acid (ZOMETA®)
Hackers for Hope has been a longtime supporter of the Weill Cornell Medicine Genitourinary Oncology Program , contributing to innovative bladder, prostate and kidney cancer research.
Five immune therapies are now approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of people with advanced bladder (urothelial) cancer. The research team is focused on finding ways to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy through combinations with other targeted therapeutics. These combination treatments may have the capacity to eventually replace the use of chemotherapy in some patients. Research is also focused on developing new treatments that target newly-identified genes that contribute to bladder cancer. Based on prior research identifying the genetic mechanisms by which bladder cancers become resistant to chemotherapy, we have launched an innovative new clinical trial utilizing a targeted drug that inhibits bladder cancer growth – the first time this type of drug is being tested in bladder cancer.
Building upon our longstanding history and internationally-recognized expertise in delivering prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) targeted therapies, our Program’s medical director Dr. Scott Tagawa continues to lead the evaluation of agents and delivery mechanisms designed to deliver more targeted radiation to metastatic prostate cancer with reduced toxicity to other organs. We are also spearheading the development of technology utilizing circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) to draw information about a patient’s tumor via a simple blood test. In addition, our team has expertise in an aggressive subset of disease called neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC). In 2018, we led a phase II clinical trial through the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium (PCCTC) to find that NEPC is driven by a gene with an associated target known as aurora kinase. Further investigation into targeting of the gene may help us to refine therapy for this difficult-to-treat patient population.
The number of FDA-approved drugs for patients with advanced kidney cancer continues to grow. Dr. Ana Molina leads our team in offering clinical trials focused on novel targeted agents, combination treatments, and risk-directed therapies for various subtypes of kidney cancer. Laboratory studies of our in vivo kidney cancer models have improved our understanding of disease metabolism, and insights surrounding the role of the mitochondria (a cell’s power generator) is leading us to novel therapeutic approaches to block tumors from growing and spreading.
Researchers at Weill Cornell continue to work diligently to develop new and more effective therapies to treat advanced prostate, bladder and kidney cancers. We are moving closer to our ultimate goal of curing genitourinary cancers and look forward to continued progress in the years ahead. For ongoing research updates and to learn more about our patient education efforts and upcoming events, please visit with Weill Cornell Genitourinary (GU) Oncology Program blog at https://weillcornellgucancer.org/.
Cannonball Kids’ cancer (CKc) Foundation was established as a non-profit in January 2015 by Michael and Melissa Wiggins, the parents of Cannon Wiggins. When Cannon was 20 months old, he was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. During Cannon’s treatment, Michael and Melissa learned little time, effort and funding is devoted to finding treatments for children’s cancer compared to adult cancers, and as a result, children are unnecessarily and unjustly lost. The mission of CKc is to fund innovative, accessible research for children fighting cancer to provide better treatments and quality of life, and to educate for change.
Continued support from Hackers for Hope has enabled CKc to award more than $1.9 million in four years, funding 19 grants, and creating 385 options for treatment. These options were offered to children who, but for CKc-funded clinical trials would have been sent to hospice. CKc-funded research grants impact the lives of children in 26 states, Washington D.C., Scotland, and Switzerland. CKc has also launched two education campaigns: No More Options about the lack of treatment options for childhood cancers and This Is Treatment about the side-effects of the most common therapies used to treat childhood cancer.
In addition, CKc educates legislators in Washington D.C. on the realities of childhood cancer and the lack of federal funding for innovative, less-toxic treatment options. This year, CKc drafted report language for the federal government’s 2020 budget. The report language specifically compels the National Cancer Institute to prioritize research of the nation’s deadliest childhood cancers (those with a five-year survival rate below 50%) in the same way it prioritizes the deadliest adult cancers. The report language was adopted along with the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 8, 2019