When 49-year-old Star Dolbier landed at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in the summer of 2018 with a large mass on her left lung, she’d done enough research to know the situation was dire. So when she met with her new oncologist, Dolbier was surprised to learn that the medical center was part of a research trial that would analyze tiny fragments of cancer DNA that the tumor had shed in her blood. The results revealed that she was part of the 15 percent of lung cancer patients with a mutation in their EGFR gene, which made her eligible for a new drug treatment that been approved just four months earlier for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The drug is part of a new generation of targeted therapies that work according to patients’ unique biology. Dolbier is a poster child for the potential of precision medicine in oncology—the rapidly expanding field in which doctors use insights from patients’ DNA to better understand what drives their disease and prescribe personalized drug treatments, rather than resorting to a one-size-fits-all standard of care. Last year saw the approval of more than two dozen such drugs, and over the next two years, analysts predict that the number of new personalized treatments will outnumber those for the general population. As part of this whirlwind of innovation, more cancer centers are setting up genetic sequencing labs, and more oncologists are advising patients to get their tumor tissue genetically sequenced. Yet scientists are also hoping to learn the deeper secrets of cancer from our blood, which they believe offers more comprehensive information about the complexity of a patient’s cancer. “The existing technology we have available is imaging scans and surgical tissue biopsies. Both are powerful but limited,” says Viktor Adalsteinsson, associate director of the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Imaging can’t see the smallest cancers and can lead to inconclusive results. Surgical biopsies are invasive and painful and can’t be done repeatedly throughout care." New technology aims to identify a returning cancer’s DNA presence long before a new tumor grows big enough to be seen again on a conventional scan and when treatment is likely to be more effective. The Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics is developing blood-based biopsies for tracking disease progression and other cancer diagnostics that may potentially benefit millions of patients worldwide.Read more at smithsonianmag.com
Regenerative medicine accelerated from the bench into the practice in new ways in 2019, ushering in an era of care focused on the body’s amazing ability to heal itself. “The regenerative toolkit keeps on expanding concomitantly, and applications of regenerative medicine into practice is increasingly broadening to more conditions that benefit more patients. Across Mayo Clinic sites and specialties, from neurosurgery, neurology, otorhinolaryngology, pulmonary medicine, cardiology and cardiac surgery to cancer and musculoskeletal care, women’s health and plastic surgery, medicine, laboratory medicine and radiology, this year has seen remarkable achievements,” says Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine. Bolstered by robust research, Mayo Clinic is at the forefront of delivering new therapies that restore form and function to diseased cells, tissues, or organs — and ultimately to the individual as a whole. Regenerative medicine is redefining clinical care, going beyond mitigating disease symptoms to addressing the underlying cause. Mayo Clinic aspires to cure, connect and transform through new regenerative therapies grounded in rigorous science and in line with regulatory standards for quality and compliance. Within the next decade, regenerative medicine is predicted to account for 10% of all clinical care.Read more at mayoclinic.org
Mayo Clinic experts shared their leadership and knowledge of regenerative medicine with an international audience at the World Stem Cell Summit in Miami. Every year more than 2,000 physicians, scientists, bioethicists, industry, government watchdogs and patient advocates from 44 countries convene at the World Stem Cell Summit to collaborate and focus on ways to advance emerging regenerative sciences. “This conference attracts some of the most preeminent minds in regenerative medicine and is representative of the field’s eco system. It’s a chance to share our latest research and newest applications of validated regenerative procedures,” says Shane Shapiro, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine Therapeutic Suites at Mayo’s Jacksonville, Florida campus. Dr. Shapiro and fellow speakers Dr. Terzic and Dr. Qu receive funding from Gerstner Philanthropies.Read more about the summit at mayoclinic.org
The Gerstner Family Foundation has made the first installment of its $750,000 grant to Seton Education Partners to support the opening of two new Brilla Schools in the Bronx. Founded by Seton Education Partners in 2013, Brilla Public Charter Schools is a network of high-performing, classically-based charter schools located in the Bronx, NY. The network currently serves 940 students, 91% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Brilla, which means “shine” in Spanish, was founded on the conviction that schools should develop the whole child—mind, body, and spirit. For that reason, in addition to leveraging the best instructional practices such as technology-based learning, a co-teaching model, and a longer school year, Brilla implements a robust character education program centered around the four core virtues of courage, justice, wisdom, and self-control. In both ELA and math, Brilla was the third highest performing school out of all New York state elementary schools serving a similar demographic. Other funders of the project include The Facilities Investment Fund and Charter School Growth Fund.
Gerstner Philanthropies announced today that it has awarded $3.1 million to 18 social services organizations to be used for emergency grants to people in need. Gerstner made the grants as part of its Helping Hands program, and anticipates making additional grants this year for Helping Hands to bring the total close to $4 million. Emergency grants have been a core part of Gerstner’s work for over a decade, with grants for Helping Hands totaling almost $12 million. Approximately 12,000 households have been helped, primarily in NYC and also in Boston and Palm Beach County, Florida. The majority of emergency grants are used for eviction prevention, though funds may also be used for other urgent needs. The average emergency grant size is under $1,000. Gerstner’s recent round of grantmaking comes on the heels of the first Helping Hands convening, held in November 2019 assembling representatives from all of the organizations in the program to discuss challenges and innovations, share stories of impact, and brainstorm ideas for scaling emergency grantmaking.Read more at philanthropynewyork.org