Q&A With Dr. Scott Hiebert at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

hiebert_scott_croppedThank you for attending our recent scientific research meeting. What was your top takeaway? One of the things that struck me was the success of using three drugs to combat HIV and how successful this approach has been. We use combination therapy in cancer, but rarely can we apply three drugs at once due to toxicity. This has to be our goal as using multiple drugs at once makes resistance less likely to occur.

Please tell us a little about your research funded by the T.J. Martell Foundation. The work funded at Vanderbilt spans most of the critical cancer types from breast cancer to lung cancer to leukemia. This work is aimed at not only making new drugs, but using the drugs we have in a smarter way.

Why and how did you begin doing this type of work? I got hooked in graduate school. I had a mentor in college who suggested graduate school and once I started discovering new information never before uncovered, I was hooked. We do “hypothesis” based research where we test our best guesses, so its a little like gambling and its easy to get hooked.

Why is the T.J. Martell Foundation’s continued support so important to your research? The support of the T. J. Martell Foundation supports every aspect of our work in that it allows us to try risky new experiments and develop new veins of discovery that would not be funded by the NIH.

What are some of the most important things people can do to decrease their cancer risk? Don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and screen, screen, screen—colonoscopy when you are 50, prostate and breast exams, and make sure that your kids and grandchildren get the HPV vaccine. This vaccine will prevent cervical cancer and half of head and neck cancers in men and women.

Dr. Scott Hiebert is Associate Director for Basic Science Research and Shared Resources, Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, Professor of Biochemistry, Associate Professor of Medicine, and Researcher at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville.

Guest Blog Post by a Grateful Patient

My good friend, Lee Jay Berman, invited me to the wine-tasting dinner, which I was unable to attend, but he had explained the foundation’s mission.  When I received my diagnosis not long afterwards, he was one of the first people I called.  He alerted me to the T.J. Martell Foundation’s Patient Services program, or as he put it, “My friend Laura is CEO at T.J. Martell, and when she calls the administrator of a facility, they drop everything to take her call. She can really open doors. It has made a difference for other friends of mine. She sees it as another kind of mission for the foundation.”

My diagnosis was a rare but aggressive one, cholangiocarcinoma—cancer of the bile ducts leading out of the liver.  Two experienced surgeons in the field told me point blank that I wasn’t a candidate for surgery, which is the only thing that holds out hope of survival past a year or two.  Palliative care (chemo and radiation) was my only option.

I had been in touch with Memorial Sloan Kettering about getting a second (actually, third) opinion, specifically with one of their oncologists, since I was satisfied that surgery wasn’t possible.  After Laura’s call, I quickly got an appointment.  To my surprise, it was with a surgeon, one of the most distinguished surgeons for GI cancers in the world.  He told me that while I should start chemotherapy, I should not rule out the possibility of surgery later on.  I had an unusually good response to the chemo, and six months later he performed a resection operation.  Tests showed zero cancer at the margins, which holds out the possibility that I have been cured.

Perhaps I might have gotten that appointment without the referral.  But perhaps not.  MSK‘s policy was not to see someone like me at all once chemotherapy began, which was imminent.  The appointment was literally on three hours’ notice.  Without that appointment, I would have had chemo and radiation—and likely never have known surgery was an option.

How did the referral help me?  Possibly the difference between life or death.  At a minimum, as things turned out, it likely added years to my life.

There are many foundations fighting the battle against cancer.  T.J. Martell is focused on funding innovative research at top institutions pushing for real breakthroughs.  That’s the melody.  The human side of the foundation adds a harmony of personal kindness, reaching out to those stricken by cancer to make breakthroughs at an individual level possible.  Of that, I’m living proof.

Editor’s note: This patient has asked to remain anonymous, and we of course respect his wishes.

T.J. Martell Foundation Named to the 2016 Classy 100

classy-100_instaWe are proud to announce that the T.J. Martell Foundation made this year’s Classy 100 list, an annual compilation of the growing nonprofits on Classy, the world’s leading online fundraising platform for social enterprises. Classy released in February the 2016 Classy 100 using a proprietary growth score calculation as the basis for recognition. The organizations that represent the top one hundred growth organizations this year on Classy were generated through a calculated score that took into consideration revenue growth from three areas: monthly revenue growth on Classy above the platform baseline, year-over-year revenue growth on Classy, and overall revenue size on Classy.

“Scaling an organization is extremely hard work, whether you’re running a for-profit company or a nonprofit organization,” said Scot Chisholm, CEO and co-founder of Classy. “However, growth in the nonprofit sector isn’t celebrated in the same way as it is in the for-profit sector. At Classy we believe that revenue growth is an important metric for both sectors, as it represents the ability to attract and maintain new customers or supporters year over year. The Classy 100 represents a group of social good organizations who have experienced growth by delivering a world-class giving experience to their supporters year in and year out.”

To be included in the Classy 100, organizations needed to be transacting on Classy for at least January 2016—December 2016. Other criteria included at least $50K in revenue on Classy in 2016, counting transactions in all 12 months; at least $10K in revenue on Classy in 2015; and at least 25 percent year-over-year revenue growth on Classy from 2015 to 2016. The organizations recognized this year span all causes and sizes, bound together by their consistent revenue growth on the Classy platform.

About Classy

Classy is the world’s leading fundraising platform for social enterprises with the goal of solving social problems more effectively and efficiently. Since launching in 2011, Classy has helped more than 3,000 social enterprises including Oxfam, World Food Program USA, and National Geographic to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Classy also hosts the Collaborative, a 3-days summit and awards ceremony, that brings together impactful social enterprises and celebrates achievements in the sector. Based in San Diego, CA, Classy employs a staff of over 200 people and was recognized by Fast Company in 2016 as one of the world’s 10 Most Innovative Companies for Social Good. Classy was also recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the 10 Most Brilliant Companies for Social Impact in 2016 and listed as a “Rising Star” in the first-ever Forbes Cloud 100 list in 2016. Classy is backed by investors including JMI, Mithril and Salesforce Ventures. For more information, visit www.classy.org or follow Classy on Twitter: @Classy.

A Very Sad Loss

Kitty Moon EmeryThe T.J. Martell Foundation is deeply saddened by the news that Kitty Moon Emery has passed away. She was a dear friend, mentor and one of the greatest women in our Nashville community. She was a special board member and volunteer for the T.J. Martell Foundation. Our hearts and prayers goes to her husband Pat during this sad time.

Patient Update: “I knew I would come out the other side just fine.”

Paul FitzpatrickWhen Paul was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer in 2008, he wasn’t sure where to turn. “It was quite a shock being diagnosed with cancer at 27, and I felt like I’d been thrown into completely uncharted waters. But the doctors who the T.J. Martell Foundation referred me to at Mount Sinai in Manhattan took fantastic care of me. It was clear from the start that they were the experts in their field. When another team first recommended an aggressive course of chemo that could have been debilitating, Dr. James Holland reviewed my case and recommended a less invasive course of oral chemo so I never missed a day of work because of side effects.”

That was almost nine years ago, and Paul is now in remission. At the time, his doctors were unsure what quality of life he would be able to maintain longterm. But he has since welcomed three beautiful children and a few summers ago he rode 105 miles to support cancer patients and survivors in his home state of Connecticut.

“I don’t want to trivialize anything, but looking back almost a decade later, it almost feels like a non-event,” says Paul. “Thanks to the talented people at the T.J. Martell Foundation, I knew from the beginning of this process that I would come out the other side just fine.”


Cancer and Collaboration

Levy_MiaOne of the bedrocks of our organization is encouraging collaboration between scientists and institutions. We feel strongly that we will find a cure faster when great minds work together. That is why we are so excited about this news from our partners at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, who have joined an international consortium of leading cancer centers to share genomic data from patients in an effort to accelerate the pace of cancer research and improve precision medicine.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) launched the AACR Project Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange (GENIE) to facilitate data sharing among major cancer centers and researchers.

VICC’s participation in AACR Project GENIE has been spearheaded by Mia Levy, M.D., Ph.D., Ingram Assistant Professor of Cancer Research and director of Cancer Health Informatics and Strategy, pictured here.

“As physicians we are all generating massive amounts of data about patients and the genetic mutations in their tumors, along with patient response to medications and other treatments. But much of that data is kept in silos and has not been shared. AACR Project GENIE is one of the first efforts to make some of this data available for cancer researchers so that we can accelerate the pace of discovery,” Levy said.

Click here to read more.

“I am strong, and I can do this.”

Portrait of FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews Quixote Studios/West Hollywood, CA, USA 01/17/2017 SI-703 TK1 Credit: Robert Beck

Photo Credit: Robert Beck

Erin Andrews is a Fox NFL reporter and the co-host of “Dancing With The Stars.” She is also now a cervical cancer survivor, who is urging other women to get screened.

She recently revealed to Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB that she went to in for a routine checkup in June 2016 and found out after additional testing that she had cervical cancer, and would need surgery as soon as possible.

Known for her incredible work ethic and love of football, she returned to work just days after her surgery and is now cancer-free. “Everyone kept telling me, ‘You’re so strong, for going through all of this, for holding down a job in football, for being the only woman on the crew,’ ” Andrews says. “Finally I got to the point where I believed it too. ‘Hey, I have cancer, but dammit, I am strong, and I can do this.’ ”

We commend Erin for being an inspiration to other women and cancer survivors.

Mechalle’s Story of Survival

MechalleMyersMechalle Myers, who works for the Country Music Association in Nashville, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2016. “When I was diagnosed, I was paralyzed. When I got that call I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what was next.”

A friend recommended she call the T.J. Martell Foundation, whose work she was already very familiar with through our partnership with CMA and reputation in the music industry. The T.J. Martell Foundation provided quick referrals to specialists at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and a second opinion at Mount Sinai in New York City when needed. “They got me out of being paralyzed and moved me in the direction I needed to see the doctors I needed to see. I would have never been able to make these connections without the T.J. Martell Foundation. It would have been very stressful, and I can’t say enough great things about them. For someone to step in and say ‘it’s going to be okay – I’m going to help you’ is just amazing. They left me with no lag time to be sitting around dwelling on this news. They got me in to see the doctors I needed right away. I’m eternally grateful for the T.J. Martell Foundation and all their people for their love, support, direction, compassion and expertise. I will always do anything I can to help them.”

T.J. Martell Foundation Prepares for 22nd Annual Scientific Consortium

Every year, our funded researchers meet to present their cancer and AIDS research findings to our Scientific Advisory Committee at our Annual Scientific Consortium. This year’s meeting will take place later this week in Nashville. The Chairman of our Scientific Advisory Committee is Donald J. Tindall, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and a former Martell funded prostate cancer research doctor.

dr-tindall“I am looking forward to the T.J. Martell Foundation Annual Scientific Consortium,” says Dr. Tindall. “For the past 15 years this has been one of my favorite scientific meetings, because it brings together many of the world’s best scientists and clinician investigators. I have always been inspired by the high quality of research findings that are presented and the game-changing collaborations that are developed during this meeting. I am optimistic that 2017 will bring new discoveries for the eradication of leukemia, cancer and AIDS.”

For more information about our scientific research programs, please click here.