On Thursday, April 18th, LLS staff traveled to the translational research facilities of Celgene in San Francisco’s Mission Bay district for a Mission Field Trip. Today’s post comes to us from Thea Zajac and Harriet Patterson, two of our superstar staff members on our Mission Team. Read on to hear about their exciting day in learning first hand how the funds we raise translate directly to research.
We began our day with Vicki Sung, PhD, Associate Director and scientist at Celgene, who gave an overview of the oncology drug development process to the group. She began with an outline of basic cancer biology and the hallmarks of cancer cells. Some of them included not dying when a normal cell would, reproducing without stopping, and an ability to “trick” the immune system which contributes to flying under the immune system’s radar. These characteristics have been the target of many of the new “targeted therapies” developed in the past 10 years and continue to shape our understanding of how cancer cells grow successfully.
She shared some background on the field of translational medicine—which is how basic science findings from the lab are used in the clinic and then clinic findings come back into the lab. She also described “biomarkers” which help both identify potential targets for new drugs and also can be developed into predictive tools for identifying whether treatments will work for a particular patient and/or indicators of prognosis. She shared a very stunning fact—that she has been working for over 20 years in this field and this is the first company that she worked for which actually had drugs that had made it to patients. I think this helps to underscore why connecting with patients and organizations like LLS is so valuable for scientists and researchers—it brings them closer to the people they are hoping to help with their work.
Following our session, we had a tour of the facility and then joined in a lab team meeting at lunch where the 30+ employees from Celgene and our LLS team met each other, heard about our work and listened to a couple of presentations. Chad Saward, from Celgene’s Patient Advocacy office, presented about Celgene, the company’s priorities and history, and also about all the work they are doing with LLS around patient access, financial assistance, and patient education. He also talked about partnership with LLS on the Cancer Oral Parity Bills passed in a number of states. I presented next with a brief overview of LLS and our services, a longer discussion about our research program, our Therapy Acceleration Program, and the partnership that was launched with Celgene last fall, and finally a discussion about local partnership opportunities. We concluded the day with a great Q & A session with their team—many folks had questions and knowledge to contribute about advocacy and oral parity, our research partnership, experiences in Light The Night, and clinical trials.
You can learn more about our Mission and Goals at LLS here.