Year In Review 2021
The “Year In Review 2021” highlights some of last year’s most impactful breakthroughs at MSK. You’ll find news of promising therapies pioneered in our labs that are now widely available, thanks to FDA approval; groundbreaking clinical trials that are improving outcomes for people with lung, bladder, and blood cancers; and exciting educational initiatives that are creating more opportunities than ever for exceptional young physicians and researchers to train at MSK. Donor support is at the heart of these successes.
The Future Of Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy—the stimulation or suppression of the immune system to help the body fight disease—is one of the most promising ways to treat, cure, and ultimately prevent cancer. Home to the first immunotherapy experiments more than a century ago, MSK continues to lead the field with discoveries that are improving the lives of people worldwide.
A Complete Response: Sharon’s Story
In 2004, Sharon Belvin was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma at 22 years old. MSK’s Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, enrolled her in a clinical trial of ipilimumab, a brand-new type of immunotherapy that harnesses the body’s immune system to attack cancer.
A Visit With Michael Glickman
Meet Michael Glickman, MD. The Alfred P. Sloan Chair, a Member in the Immunology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute, and an attending physician on the Infectious Diseases Service of Memorial Hospital, Dr. Glickman is also the Director of MSK’s Center for Experimental Immuno-Oncology (EIO). We sat down with him to discuss the EIO and what’s next in immuno-oncology and immunotherapy.
Engineering Treatments: A Conversation on New Drug Development
At Memorial Sloan Kettering, scientists and physician-researchers work side-by-side to improve patient outcomes, reduce treatment side effects, and help people with cancer and their families live the best lives possible. An essential part of this work is drug development.
Thirty years ago, chemotherapies were the only effective cancer drugs. Unfortunately, these therapies also attack healthy cells and cause many side effects. In the ensuing decades, however, a series of biological discoveries ushered in an explosive growth in cancer drug development. MSK continues to lead this revolution thanks to strong philanthropic support.
When Rihanna Plaza was born with a tumor the size of her head on her right upper arm, her parents, Ana and Enrique, were shocked—and terrified. The malignancy was interfering with Rihanna’s arm muscles. Immediate surgery to remove the tumor would cause permanent damage. Chemotherapy was unlikely to have any effect on the tumor, a rare connective tissue malignancy known as a sarcoma.
A Visit with Drs. Scheinberg and Hyman
David Scheinberg, MD, PhD, came to MSK more than three decades ago. Since then, he has developed eight therapeutic agents that led to human clinical trials. David Hyman, MD, arrived at MSK in 2011. He soon gained prominence for his translational work in early-phase clinical studies. We sat down with these talented researchers for their historical perspectives—and a look forward.
The Financial Assistance Program
For many decades, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) has provided financial support to families in need. If a patient does not have health insurance or is concerned about paying an uncovered portion of the bill, the MSK Financial Assistance Program may be able to help. This philanthropically funded initiative is staffed by thoughtful counselors, who understand how cancer may have a cataclysmic effect on a patient’s financial well-being.
Meet Yvette Griffin
In 2004, Yvette Griffin was diagnosed with triplenegative breast cancer, a cancer with fewer treatment options than other breast cancers and which disproportionately a ects African Americans, and women who carry the BRCA breast cancer mutation.
A Visit with Sylvia Corbin, MHA
Sylvia Corbin, Director of Patient Financial Assistance at MSK, began her career in the Financial Assistance Program (FAP) as a counselor 26 years ago. Over the course of her career she has helped thousands of patients obtain economic relief through a philanthropically funded initiative.
Rehabilitating Cancer Cells: Epigenetics
Patients with relapsed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) face daunting odds. Thankfully, because of your early philanthropic support, MSK has developed a new, epigenetic drug that is changing lives.
Meet Dan Hussar
In April 2015, Dan Hussar, a pharmacy professor and grandparent, completed treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at an academic medical center near his Philadelphia home.
He was soon feeling better. But seven months later, Dan noticed small bumps on his skin—and his worst fear was confirmed. His leukemia had returned.
A Visit with Kristian Helin
In September 2018, Kristian Helin, PhD, moved to the US from the University of Copenhagen to become Chair of the MSK Cell Biology Program and Director of the Center for Epigenetics Research, both part of the Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI). In his dual role, this cell biologist is leading studies to understand epigenetic drivers of cancer and how they may be reversed.
Every year, nearly 16,000 children and teens in the United States are diagnosed with cancer. MSK is home to the largest pediatric oncology program in the country — and treats more kids with cancer than any other hospital nationwide.
Meet Scarlett James
Scarlett James was a fun-loving six-year-old when she was diagnosed at MSK with a pediatric cancer known as T cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in 2013.
A Visit with Andrew Kung
Thanks to pioneering research by MSK and others, today 80 percent of children with cancer will be cured. Our goal is to drive that number higher, and with great urgency, which is why Department of Pediatrics Chair Andrew Kung, MD, PhD, has launched new programs to save the lives of more kids and minimize the long-term effects of cancer treatment.
A 21st Century Bone Marrow Transplant
Beginning in the 1970s, bone marrow transplants (BMTs) have offered a chance of cure for many people with leukemias, lymphomas, and other blood disorders. An allogeneic BMT replaces a patient’s suppressed immune system with a new, healthy one — grown from donor stem cells or bone marrow. While BMTs are successful in 60 to 70 percent of patients, the procedure carries significant risk — including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which can occur when the newly transplanted cells attack the “foreign” host tissue.
Meet Jay O'Brien
I was a college athlete and coach, and I’ve always been in good shape. I also worked in the athletic footwear business for a long time.
In 2008, my wife and I were on one of our long walks, and I couldn’t make it up a hill. My heart was pounding like crazy — but I wasn’t sweating. I saw my primary care doctor in New Jersey.
The moment he saw me he was so concerned that he ordered blood work immediately. That afternoon, his office called — go to the ER. And that’s where my wife and I learned I had leukemia.
A Visit with Marcel van den Brink
Meet Marcel van den Brink, MD, PhD, whose research includes optimizing gut microbiota — the bacteria, or flora, that live in the gut — to improve outcomes following BMT. He also develops cell therapies to strengthen the immune system after transplant. While primarily focused on BMT, Dr. van den Brink’s work holds potential against many diseases.
Outsmarting Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to detect, and therefore to treat. But MSK physicians and scientists are introducing new approaches, called immunotherapies, which can help some lung cancer patients defeat the disease. Because of thoughtful donors like you, people are living beyond cancer.
Reversing Cancer: Steve's Story
Apparel industry executive Steve Cara was 52 years old when he learned from his insurance agent that he had cancer. He had just taken a blood test to increase his life policy’s value. The diagnosis: lung cancer.
A Visit with Matthew Hellmann
Lung cancer is still the leading cause of all deaths from cancer in the country and worldwide. Many patients with lung cancers have never smoked. Fortunately, new medicines such as immunotherapies are beginning to provide hope for patients with these diseases.