On the evening of September 10, the cancer-research community was given a rare opportunity in the entertainment spotlight, as all four major networks, a dozen cable channels, and a host of online video outlets presented a fundraising telethon for the philanthropic organization Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C). Amid a throng of music and Hollywood celebrities, one of the event’s stars was Daniel Von Hoff, physician-in-chief of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
Last year, SU2C awarded an $18 million grant to Dr. Von Hoff and a colleague at the University of Pennsylvania to combat pancreatic cancer in a new way. This year, the work by the pancreatic-cancer “dream team” was profiled several times by SU2C, starting with a pre-telethon feature on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric on Sept. 9.
“There’s an awful lot of people out there depending on us,” Dr. Von Hoff said in the CBS News piece. “And, we hope not to disappoint.”
Last year’s grant is underwriting a clinical trial beginning this month to target pancreatic cancer with a trio of drugs. One is Gemcitabine, a drug Dr. Von Hoff developed previously that, used by itself, has elevated the five-year survival rate for some pancreatic-cancer patients from 2 percent to 18 percent. Now the goal is to improve on that rate.
The second drug used in the trial is nab-paclitaxel, marketed as Abraxane by the pharmaceutical firm Abraxis BioScience (which last year opened a manufacturing site in Phoenix). The third drug is GDC-0449, an experimental treatment from the biotech firm Genentech that Dr. Von Hoff has been studying for some time. This “hedgehog inhibitor” is designed to cut off the delivery of the nutrient glutamine to cancer cells.
SU2C was established by the Entertainment Industry Foundation in 2007. The initial telethon in 2008 raised roughly $100 million, from which grants totaling $73.6 million were distributed to five “dream teams.”
For more information:
“Reversing the Odds on Pancreatic Cancer,” CBS Evening News, 09/09/2010
“Progress Report: Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team,” Stand Up to Cancer, 09/08/2010