Prostate Cancer Breakthrough at Mount Sinai Hospital

T.J. Martell Foundation-supported scientists have identified a “master regulator” gene driving aggressiveness in prostate cancer.

Scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, with the support of the T.J. Martell Foundation, have discovered a gene that acts as a switch and activates the aggressiveness of tumor cells. The discovery could have a major impact on the development of treatments for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common tumor and one of the leading causes of cancer death in men. In about 10-15% of patients prostate cancer has an aggressive disease course characterized by the appearance of tumors in distant organs (metastasis) and the acquisition of resistance to anticancer drugs, which contributes to the death of most patients with prostate cancer.

The study, led by Dr. Josep Domingo-Domenech published and highlighted in the cover of the prestigious scientific journal Cancer Cell, describes a mechanism by which prostate cancer cells become aggressive and survive standard treatment. The key is a gene called GATA2, which encodes a transcription factor capable of reprogramming and activating aggressive cells through activation of multiple signaling pathways.

Using computational biology techniques that integrate genetic information from prostate cancer cells in humans and experimental models it has been possible to identify the master regulator gene GATA2. It was observed that experimental prostate cancer tumor cells with high levels of GATA2 initiated aggressive tumors that were resistant to chemotherapy. GATA2 gene acts as a master gene, controlling the activation and expression of many other genes. It activates other genes, putting them to work invading healthy tissue and initiating metastasis. Other genes are set to activate survival pathways that help initiate tumors and make cells resistant to anticancer drugs. This is the case for the gene coding the growth factor IGF2, which is activated directly by GATA2 triggering a signaling cascade that increases tumor cell survival under adverse conditions.

Importantly the discovery of the master gene, GATA2, that regulates expression of IGF2 led to the identification of a new therapeutic strategy for patients with prostate cancer. The new treatment strategy combines chemotherapy with IGF2 pathway inhibitors which improves the results of chemotherapy and allows more durable responses. Dr. Domingo- Domenech explains, ‘the combination of chemotherapy with IGF2 pathway inhibitors helps enhance the antitumor effect of chemotherapy and was well tolerated in animal models. Now we are looking forward to translate these studies into patients.”

“This important finding is a clear example of the excellent science with important clinical implications for cancer patients that the T.J. Martell Foundation is currently funding,” says Dr. James Holland, the founding research scientist for the T.J. Martell Foundation. The support that the T.J. Martell Foundation has given Dr. Domingo- Domenech during the last years is helping enormously to uncover new therapeutic targets against this devastating disease.

 

Monday, April 7th is World Health Day

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention.”

World Health Day, April 7th, is a great opportunity to focus our attention on what should be an American priority: cancer prevention.

Scientific evidence tells us that over 50 percent of all cancers are preventable by applying what we know right now. Attention to diet, exercise, avoiding alcohol, protecting our skin from the sun, managing stress and, of course, ending smoking all contribute to significantly reduce cancer risk. These are the “broad strokes” of cancer prevention. The devil is in the details, and people need to know which foods, what kind of exercise, how to manage stress, etc. There are highly-effective strategies to prevent cancer, but we need to learn them. We should be teaching our children about the kinds of foods that reduce cancer risk and encouraging them to stay physically active to prevent cancer and other diseases. Anti-smoking education should focus on the young as well as adults, emphasizing that “It’s not cool to smoke, because there’s nothing cool about cancer.”

Learning that whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables can help prevent many cancers, including cancers of the prostate, breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, lung, colon, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and probably other cancer types is a powerful lesson that can have a significant impact on children’s lives. In many cases, children who have been taught about cancer-preventing strategies can become the role models and teachers for their parents.

Our fruits, vegetables and grains should be free of harmful pesticides that promote cancer. Our cattle, poultry and fish should not be exposed to antibiotics or hormones that will be harmful to their human consumers. Our personal care products, such as shampoo and deodorant and toothpaste; cosmetics, such as lipstick, mascara and eyeliner; and our household cleaning products should be free of chemicals that disrupt our hormones, and increase our cancer risk.

The scientific and medical community, including the World Health Organization and the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Reproductive Society, are speaking out against the harmful chemicals in our environment.

In a joint Committee Opinion issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in September 2013, obstetricians and gynecologists were urged to advocate for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents.

Among the reproductive and health problems associated with exposure to these toxic chemicals, these powerful medical groups listed childhood cancers, miscarriage and stillbirth impaired fetal growth and low birth weight, preterm birth, birth defects, cognitive/intellectual impairment and thyroid problems.

In 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel issued a scathing report entitled, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” in which it stated: “The true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.”

It takes a village to support cancer prevention. Government and the industries producing our food, personal care products and cosmetics, household and industrial cleaning products, fertilizers and pesticides should be partners in the effort to ensure that our food is pure and healthful, and that the products used on our bodies and our farms, in our homes, schools and businesses aren’t cancer-causing. Less Cancer, a not-for-profit organization founded by Bill Couzens, seeks to educate individuals and raise awareness that results in the protection of human health, the environment, and our economy. Less Cancer’s work on health and the environment spans a wide range of issues, including specific contaminants, pollution sources and also healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and smoking cessation. While we work to protect all communities, our approach is particularly relevant to at-risk populations, such as children, low-income communities, and workers. Less Cancer’s ultimate goal is to reduce incidences of diagnosed cancer in all people. As a Less Cancer board member, I am honored to be a part of this vital mission.

A World Without Cancer, the book I wrote in 2012, is my personal journey with cancer as a doctor, a diagnostic radiologist and experiencing cancer’s horrific effects on my patients, friends, and family. The good news is that cancer is not an inevitability for us. Whether we are adults or children, members of the media or medical community, government, industry or cancer advocacy group, we can all contribute to a healthier environment, a stronger, more vibrant society, and ultimately, to a world without cancer. If we fully dedicate ourselves to the prevention of cancer, this impossible dream will become a reality.

Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D., is a board-certified radiologist and served as an attending physician in diagnostic radiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. for many years. Specializing in body imaging, involving CT, Ultrasound, MRI and interventional procedures, much of her practice was dedicated to the diagnosis of cancer and AIDS. She is the daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Mrs. Matilda Cuomo and sister to Governor Andrew Cuomo and ABC’s Chris Cuomo. She resides in New York. Cuomo’s book, A World Without Cancer, was published October 2012 by Rodale.

We Want YOUR BUSINESS To Get Involved!

We would like to thank Edwards Photography Studios for supporting our organization in the month of January. You can help with a simple “CLICK.” Go to their Facebook page, and click “LIKE.” For each new like in the month of January, they will donate $2 to our foundation. Please SHARE our Facebook posts and invite your friends to do the same!

Does your company have a fan page on Facebook? We’d love for you to get involved with a campaign like this which raises money for life-saving research AND gains exposure for your business, a win-win for everyone involved! Ready to make us your charity of the month? Please email Kate Fitzpatrick, our social media manager, kfitzpatrick@tjmartell.org for details.

The Problem with Excuses: Early Cancer Detection in Young Adults

Guest Blog Post from 15-40 Connection

In the realm of cancer research, preventative measures like early detection are coming into the spotlight lately. After Angelina Jolie’s high-profile case, more people are aware that genetic testing even exists. It’s a hot topic on everyone’s mind. Early detection can mean increased chances of survival, but it also likely means fewer rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation. Especially if the cancer is caught early enough so that it has not spread, it drastically decreases the complexity of treatment and the painful side effects.

So, why isn’t it working for everyone? Rates of survival in the 15-40 year old age group have not increased since 1975. Rates of survival of pediatric cancer have improved, as well as cancer found in those over 40, so why are young adults left out?

There isn’t an easy answer. This age group is particularly hard to diagnose, because screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms aren’t usually required until later in life.  While many are aware that early detection works, far fewer know what to look for or how to look. Even when they are aware, the environmental factors mean that this age group often overlooks their own health problems.

15-40 year olds are chronically busy. This age group encompasses high school-ers, college students, young professionals, and young parents. There are a lot of transitions and a lot of new adjustments, and taking care of your health can take a back seat. When making an annual physical appointment is competing with your children, your schoolwork or your full-time job, it’s very easy to leave at the bottom of the list.

With all these responsibilities, 15-40 year olds are less likely to put themselves and their health needs first, and more likely to ignore persistent health problems, or write them off as due to stress or “just getting older.”

The busy schedule paired with a feeling of invincibility is particularly dangerous. Feeling invincible, and that ‘cancer doesn’t happen to someone my age,’ can be self-perceived, but it can also be inferred by the doctors. Doctors are less likely to expect that a persistent health problem could be due to cancer, and frequently treat symptoms individually without discovering the real cause: cancer.

To make use of the power of early detection, we need to empower 15-40 year olds to take control of and responsibility for their health. Here are a few resources:

Stress the importance of self-exams and teach how to do them:

Breast self-exam

Testicular self-exam

Teach 15-40 year-olds how to advocate for their health:

How to talk to your doctor

When to trust your instincts

If we harness the power of early detection, the 15-40 year old age group can see similar improvements in cancer survival rates as the pediatric and adult cancers. We can change this. See www.15-40.org for more information.

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor – Skin Cancer Prevention and Awareness at Bonnaroo Music Festival

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor with the T.J. Martell Foundation at Bonnaroo

I would like to extend a warm thank you to Laura Heatherly of the T.J. Martell Foundation for asking me to conduct a skin cancer awareness program at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester,Tennessee.

As a primary care physician, I truly enjoy reaching out to the community to educate the public on the importance of cancer prevention and early detection. We had an enthusiastic audience that spanned many age groups who were interested in learning how to protect themselves from the dangers of the sun and how to check themselves for early signs of skin cancer.

On behalf of he board of directors of the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, we appreciate our collaboration with the T.J. Martell Foundation and plan to be present at many more outdoor music festivals to spread the word about skin cancer prevention.

Cancer prevention and early detection saves lives!

Check Yourself for Cancer Today!

Sandeep Kapoor, MD

Co-Founder/Medical Director

The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund

www.diocancerfund.org

But Tony Martell Knew Me: Guest Blog Post

Bob Brown is an inspirational speaker and the author of “The Ride Of My Life”, the widely acclaimed memoir of his journey with pancreatic cancer.

Being diagnosed with cancer is a devastating and lonely moment.  No matter how sizable your support team, or who is in the room with you at the time, when the Doctor says “You have stage 3 inoperable pancreatic cancer,” you alone are forced to absorb that most difficult news.  My wife Linda was with me that fateful day in March 2008, and considering the immediate and overwhelming fog that overtook my brain, I was lucky to have her to physically compose and escort me back to our home.  During that ride in the car, my mind searched for the beginnings of a plan.  I knew that we would need to do a lot of research, reach out to a bucket load of doctors, and look for support wherever we could find it.  As I sat in the car watching the road go by, I had no idea who Tony Martell was….but he knew me.

The doctors explained that my treatment options were few, the success rate even less and that the short term prognosis was very grim.  They wouldn’t even discuss the long term anything.  They created a plan to try and shrink the tumor before it spread.  They hoped to get me to an operable status so that the toxic villain could be cut from my body.  The treatments called for chemotherapy, to be followed up with radiation supplemented with additional chemo.  I was determined and my spirits were high.  Those of my doctors were anything but.  Clearly this was going to be a long shot, against the cancer with the lowest survival rate.  Looking forward even a little bit meant I was moving into miracle territory.  I didn’t know a whole lot about miracles….but Tony Martell had seen quite a few of them.

I began the treatments with a fierce positive attitude, determined that I would beat the odds.  I prepared for the side effects which I was told would be bad.  That wasn’t entirely true, as they were actually much worse.  As the treatments extended into weeks and then months, I was rendered pretty much useless.  I made it to the treatments, but spent the remainder of time in bed totally exhausted.  Tony Martell spent those months just as he had most of the past 30+ years, tirelessly leading an organization dedicated to raising funds and supporting research to rid the world of leukemia, AIDS, and all types of cancer.

Well the treatments didn’t work.  The tumor shrunk only a little bit, and my oncologist and surgeon delivered the bleak news: “There’s nothing more we can do for you.”  My wife and I could not accept that, and we searched far and wide for other opinions.  We found a surgeon at Columbia/New York Presbyterian Hospital who saw my case differently and was willing to expand the boundaries of what was normally attempted.  If I was willing to accept the elevated risks of this surgery, then yes, he was willing to try.  I agreed, and he performed a fourteen hour “whipple” surgery that saved my life.  Today, five years after diagnosis, I am one of the few…a long term survivor of pancreatic cancer.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Columbia/NYP is one of the hospitals receiving funding from the T.J. Martell Foundation to advance innovative research and treatments.     Nor should it come as a surprise that I was helped by a foundation with which I had had no previous contact.  For as a cancer patient in need of the best innovative care, The T.J. Martell Foundation knew me.

When I was asked to speak at the Annual Gala in New York last year, it was my opportunity to give back to Mr. Martell and show my gratitude for everything he does.  I approached him, stuck out my hand and introduced myself.  He looked at me with a big smile and said “Hi Bob Brown, I know all about your story; you’re one of the luckiest guys in the world.  You beat pancreatic cancer.”

Like I said, I didn’t know Tony Martell, but he sure knew me.

Bob Brown is an inspirational speaker and the author of “The Ride Of My Life”, the widely acclaimed memoir of his journey with pancreatic cancer.

Women of Influence

 

GRAMMY nominated musician Elle Varner (l), honoree Joanne Camuti, Director American Airlines, honoree Lori Stokes, Eyewitness News anchor for WABC, honoree, famed columnist and founder of wowowow.com, Liz Smith, honoree Marcie Allen, President of MAC Presents and Director/Beach 119, honoree Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, the event’s host and Weekend TODAY personality Jenna Wolfe and Laura Heatherly, CEO of the T.J. Martell Foundation. Photo Credit Nick King NY

This week the T.J. Martell Foundation launched the Women of Influence Awards at Riverpark in New York.  The Foundation honored five incredible women from various business backgrounds: Marcie Allen, President of MAC Presents; Joann Camuti, Director, Sales Promotions and Community Relations, with American Airlines; Dr. Margaret I Cuomo, Author of A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention; Liz Smith, famed Journalist, Columnist and Co-Founder of wowOwow.com; and Lori Stokes, ABC Eyewitness News Anchor.  Jenna Wolfe of NBC’s Today Show was the Mistress of Ceremonies and Grammy-Nominated recording artist Elle Varner performed a special song called “So Fly” for the women in the audience.

The event brought men and women from around the country together to support the honorees, have a great time, but most importantly, to raise awareness and funds for women’s cancer research programs through the great work of Dr. James Holland, Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and Dr.Jimmie Holland, Wayne E. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo who recently published “A World Without Cancer” gave remarks to the audience highlighting key tips for early detection and cancer prevention.  Her address to the audience was heartfelt and made all of us feel strongly about taking better care of ourselves!

I have to say that as I reflect on the wonderful day at the T.J. Martell event, it made me realize that we ALL can be Women and Men of Influence.  We are the best advocates for encouraging our family, friends and colleagues to take better care of themselves by exercising, eating healthier, limiting alcohol intake, getting rest, don’t smoke and getting yearly medical exams.   It is the best medicine one can take to live a longer, healthier life.

What a fun night!

Back Row (L to R) Chef Sam Tucker, Chef Bob Waggoner, Sheryl Crow, Gary Allan, Laura Heatherly (CEO, T.J. Martell Foundation), Luke Bryan, Chef Sean Brock
Front Row (L to R) Co-chair Bill Hearn (President, EMI Christian Group), Co-chair Tom Black, Co-chair John Esposito(President & CEO, Warner Music Nashville), Founder Billy Ray Hearn (Founder, EMI Christian Music Group)

Attendees of the 14th Annual Nashville Best Cellars Dinner hosted by the T.J. Martell Foundation celebrated a night of exclusive wine and food pairings Monday night, April 29th that benefitted life-saving cancer research at the Frances Williams Preston Labs at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. The event has raised significant funds over the past 14 years pairing “Best Sellers” (popular chart-topping artists) with “Best Cellars” (some of the top wine collectors in the United States) who shared rare wines from their collections with guests at their tables.

Since the inaugural dinner was created by Nashville wine enthusiast and music executive Billy Ray Hearn in 1999, the Best Cellars Dinner has raised more than $1.65 million to support the foundation’s mission of funding ground-breaking leukemia, cancer and AIDS research.

Guests enjoyed a gourmet four-course dinner created by Bob Waggoner, Executive Chef of Watermark and Sean Brock, Executive Chef of McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston and Husk in Nashville while featuring the world-class wines from the private collectors.  The Tom Black After Party featured performances by Warner Music Nashville Recording Artists Charlie Worsham and Brett Eldredge.