GCF Newsletter : Fall 2013

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Newsletter – Fall 2013
In This Issue

Dear Friends,


We are pleased to share this latest edition of the Gastric Cancer Foundation Newsletter – and in a brand new format. The last six months have been an active time of leadership transition, strategic decision-making, important research and much activity at GCF.  This newsletter highlights several key developments:


In August, GCF launched an important new partnership with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), a highly-respected organization in the GI world with over 17,000 professional members.  Our first joint project is the establishment of a Research Scholar Award to support ongoing research focused on gastric and esophageal cancers. We believe this type of research is a key to finding a cure. In the months ahead, we will also work with AGA and its members to increase awareness of gastric cancer and offer informational resources and support to patients and caregivers.


We have recently welcomed three new members to our GCF Board of Directors.  I hope you will enjoy reading the brief biographies presented below.  Additional information is provided on our website.  Hossein Ghanbari, Paul Gottsegen and Alice Leung each bring great passion for our work, as well as specialized expertise that will strengthen our organization. These new Board members are also expanding GCF’s outreach across the country.


You may have noticed a couple of other innovations over the last few months.  Our redesigned GCF website has been well-received, and we are continuing to enrich the content each month.  We always welcome your feedback and suggestions. We are also now offering the opportunity for individuals and organizations to easily create personal fundraising pages in support of GCF. This tool makes it easy for people to create memorial pages, conduct personal fundraising campaigns, and promote event-related donations with minimal administrative work.


Finally, we are looking forward to the 5th Annual Gastric Cancer Foundation Gala which will take place in San Mateo, California on December 7th.  If you will be in the Bay Area, please make a reservation and join us.  It will be a beautiful evening in support of gastric cancer research.


At GCF, we hear many personal accounts of the pain and struggle associated with gastric cancer. Each story touches us and motivates us. We are working hard – and with a sense of urgency — to unlock the keys to better treatments and a cure.  Please consider making a donation to support our work. We appreciate every contribution and we stretch every dollar to have the greatest impact.


Thank you!



Wayne Feinstein, Chairman


New Partnership to Fund Research

Gastric Cancer Foundation Partners With American Gastroenterological Association

We are pleased to announce a new partnership between the Gastric Cancer Foundation and the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation to fund research in gastric (stomach) and esophageal cancer. The AGA Institute is matching GCF’s commitment of $1.125 million resulting in a $2.25 million endowment to fund research focused on the fundamental pathobiology of upper gastrointestinal tract (GI) cancers in order to ultimately prevent or develop a cure for these diseases.


The American Gastroenterological Association is a trusted voice in the GI community and includes 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of gastroenterology. GCF’s new partnership with AGA is a powerful opportunity to provide critical funding that will enable aggressive researchers to pursue breakthroughs to cure stomach cancer. In the US, stomach cancer currently receives just 0.4 percent of federal funding for cancer research. We are proud to join with AGA to advance research and carry out our mission.


The AGA-Gastric Cancer Foundation Research Scholar Award in Gastric and Esophageal Cancer will provide young researchers with $90,000 per year for three years. Applicants must be interested in better understanding gastric or esophageal cancer with research focused on either disease.


Researchers interested in applying for the AGA-Gastric Cancer Foundation Research Scholar Award in Gastric and Esophageal Cancer should visit www.gastro.org/foundation. The application deadline is December 13, 2013. Members of the AGA Research Awards Panel and representatives of the Gastric Cancer Foundation will jointly review the proposals and select the award recipients. Funding will commence in July 2014.


Meet Our New Board Members

We’d like to introduce three new members of the Gastric Cancer Foundation Board of Directors. Each brings an impressive amount of knowledge and expertise that will strengthen us as we pursue our mission to provide information and hope to people with gastric cancer while supporting intensified research to find a cure.

Add a descriptionHossein Ghanbari, PhD
Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, Panacea Pharmaceuticals


Hossein Ghanbari, PhD, brings a perspective that is rich in understanding oncology from a molecular perspective, with a personal connection to stomach cancer by way of his son’s friendship with another GCF Board member, celebrity chef Hans Rueffert.


While at Abbott Laboratories, Hossein gained notoriety for developing the first Alzheimer’s disease test in the industry. He has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the world’s top medical journals, as the lead author on an Alzheimer’s study.


Hossein’s entrepreneurial spirit has led him to start three companies; Molecular Geriatrics Corporation, which focused on neurodegenerative diseases; Nymox Pharmaceuticals, which specialized in the research and development of novel drugs and diagnostic products for the aging population; and his current company that he formed with his youngest son, Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which has developed tests for prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer and is developing anti-cancer vaccine therapy and antibody drugs.


In joining the GCF Board of Directors, Hossein brings a valuable perspective that will help shape our next steps in our mission to cure stomach cancer.

Add a description

Paul Gottsegen

Senior VP, Chief Marketing & Strategy Office, Mindtree


Paul Gottsegen brings an impressive blend of business acumen and marketing knowledge from his 25 year career in international business and marketing with some of the most successful global technology companies. He has a personal connection to GCF through a close friendship with JP Gallagher, GCF’s founder and previous chairman of the board.


Following his role as one of the original team members of the server division at Compaq, Paul managed the North American server business. He met JP at Compaq, and being JP’s senior by seven years, Paul became JP’s mentor and close friend. Years later, they worked together again at Panasas. Paul served as Chief Marketing Officer with Infosys, a global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing solutions, until the end of September 2013. In October he joined Mindtree, a global information technology solutions company, as senior vice president, chief marketing & strategy officer.


Paul’s passion and dedication to GCF are as impressive as his career. He is inspired to use his professional skills to increase visibility for the organization, serve as a sounding board for communications and to support the mission of fighting stomach cancer through research and understanding the disease. We will look to Paul to help us reach the next level of visibility, strategic relationships and initiatives to support our goal of curing stomach cancer.

Add a description 

Karling Alice Leung,

Founder, Principal, Sapientiae


K. Alice Leung (Alice) knows the ins and outs of the biotech and pharmaceutical world. With more than 25 years of experience, she understands how to work with companies to develop mutually beneficial partnerships for patients, increase visibility and corporate funding.


Alice’s experience in biotech and pharmaceuticals spans a number of companies and positions. Her work in oncology started at Bristol-Myers Squibb where she worked on various oncology products and eventually led the worldwide licensing efforts for the company, signing six licensing deals with Japanese companies within six months of taking leadership of that function.


Following a successful tenure at companies including Berlex, the US subsidiary of Schering AG, now Bayer, where she led oncology development and commercial activities for the company, and serving as CEO at Intarcia Therapeutics, Inc, Alice founded Sapientiae where she consults with medium sized and smaller companies to maximize their commercial potential, clinical research and funding opportunities.


Alice’s involvement with GCF is also motivated by her personal experience as a caregiver who has seen her father through his challenges with esophageal cancer. Alice knows firsthand the importance of the intersection of information, support and research and she will bring this perspective to GCF’s planning and programs.


Research Notes


Recent months brought the following exciting news about the latest in gastric cancer research:


Gastric Cancer Drug Proves Promising

On October 3, Eli Lilly announced results from a pivotal Phase III trial of its experimental gastric cancer drug ramucirumab (IMC-1121B), which it is testing as a single-agent therapy, and they were impressive. Patients treated with the drug had a median overall survival of 5.2 months–a 37 percent improvement over those treated with placebo. The clinical trial also showed that the drug slowed the progression of the cancer. Ramucirumab is a biologic drug designed to inhibit angiogenesis, which is the growth of blood vessels that nourish tumors and help them to grow. The company believes this was the first Phase III trial of any single-agent biologic or anti-angiogenic drug that improved survival in advanced gastric cancer patients. In September, the company announced that a global Phase III study of ramucirumab in combination with paclitaxel in patients with advanced gastric cancer also improved survival. Lilly has applied to the FDA and European regulators for approval of the drug as a single-agent therapy and has plans for a second regulatory filing for the drug as a combination therapy.



Scientists Define Three Subtypes of Gastric Cancer

In the September issue of Gastroenterology, researchers from Centre for Computational Biology at Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School identified three classes of gastric cancer that have their own unique molecular profiles. The scientists studied 248 gastric tumors, then grouped them according to the genes they expressed. The three classifications-labeled “proliferative,” “metabolic,” and “mesenchymal”-showed different genetic mutations, as well as variations in their responses to commonly used therapies. The insights from this study may help clinicians tailor treatment regimens to patients, as well as guide the development of new drugs.



Experimental Drug Offers Tailored Approach to Gastric Cancer

Over the summer, Cambridge, Mass.-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals began enrolling patients in a trial of a new antibody-based drug called MM-111 for advanced gastric, esophageal and gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancers. What makes the research unique is that the drug is being tested in two subtypes of patients whose tumors possess the HER2 mutation, which has been proven in recent years to play prominently in some cases of gastric cancer. MM-111 will include some patients who are Her-2 positive but classified as ineligible to receive other Her-2-targetted therapies such as trastuzumab (Herceptin). The trial is taking place at 60 sites in the U.S. and abroad.



Post-Surgery Chemo Boosts Survival

A study presented at the European Society For Medical Oncology conference in July showed a 34 percent reduction in mortality risk for patients who received eight cycles of chemotherapy after surgery. The patients in the trial were given a combination of capecitabine and oxaliplatin (XELOX) after undergoing D2 gastrectomies, then compared to patients who had surgery alone. The trial was performed in China, South Korea, and Taiwan, and the primary endpoint was three years of disease-free survival.



Spotlight on Grassroots Events

Libertyville, Illinois

After Karen Prinz died of gastric cancer at age 47 in 2009, her friends in the close-knit town of Libertyville, Ill., decided to hold a fundraising event for GCF in her honor. Thus was born Karen’s Hope, a dinner and live auction. The first Karen’s Hope, held in the summer of 2011, raised $19,500 for the organization. And on July 26 of this year, Prinz’s friends held their second Karen’s Hope event, this time raising $16,500.


Sue Karich, who spearheads the effort, understands the burden of gastric cancer all too well: In addition to her connection to Prinz, Karich lost her sister to gastric cancer, and her brother is now (successfully) battling the disease. “I feel like I’m in a good position to do something positive,” Karich says.


Both fundraising events were held at Mickey Finn’s Amber Room in Libertyville, which is about 40 miles north of Chicago. Karich and several more of Prinz’s friends collected items for both a live and silent auction by canvassing local businesses. In 2011, they were able to solicit 60 different items for the auction.


Karich was all set to organize the second Karen’s Hope when cancer struck again-this time much closer to home. Karich was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to take a hiatus from Karen’s Hope while she underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “Everything’s good so far,” Karich says of her recovery. She was eager to raise more money for GCF, so as soon as she got back on her feet, she got back to work on the second Karen’s Hope.


Karich and her friends decided to set their sights higher this time when it came to the quality of the auction items they collected. So they put the word out to friends and family, asking if they knew anyone willing to donate high-value items. It worked: Among the goods donated for the auction were an iPad Mini, four tickets to a Chicago performance of the hit musical Book of Mormon, and a weekend stay at a resort west of Chicago. “We used our connections, and everything we got for the auction had a value of at least $250,” Karich says.


As for the next Karen’s Hope, Karich says she and her fellow volunteers have started throwing around ideas. “We want to sustain support over the long term, so next time, we may need to change it up,” she says.


New York City

The New York City chapter of GCF-made up of volunteers, many of whom lost loved ones to the disease-raised $2,500 on May 2nd at its first comedy night, held at the Broadway Comedy Club.


NYC chapter member Jared Verteramo welcomed the standing-room-only crowd, announcing the sold-out event had already exceeded his expectations. Then he introduced Andrea Gallo (pictured here), a gastric cancer patient who helped organize the fundraiser and warmed up the crowd with a humorous take on her diagnosis and treatment.


Audience members were treated to stand-up comedy from three professional comics. All of the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to GCF, and the NYC chapter is currently brainstorming ideas for its next event.


Coming Soon – 5th Annual GCF Gala!


Mark your calendar!


The 5th Annual Gastric Cancer Foundation Gala will be held on Saturday evening, December 7th at the elegant Peninsula Golf and Country Club in San Mateo, California. This beautiful evening of friendship and celebration has become a tradition for those who share a determination to find a cure for gastric cancer. Please plan to join us for a reception and gourmet dinner, plus lively silent and live auctions.  We are pleased to announce that State Senator Jerry Hill will be returning as our guest auctioneer – back by popular demand!


This year’s Gala will include a special remembrance of JP Gallagher, GCF’s founder, who lost his courageous battle against gastric cancer in February 2013. We continue to be inspired by JP’s memory and his ambitious vision for GCF.


The event is a centerpiece of GCF’s annual fundraising for research, education and awareness programs. Please visit the GCF website for more Gala information and to make your reservation. Invitations will be mailed in mid-October. If you are unable to attend the Gala, please consider making a donation in honor of the occasion and to support our important work.