I was lucky enough to fly to Chicago to attend the 5th Annual Giants of Cancer Care event. It was an absolute honor to sit in the Lincoln Room at Chicago’s History Museum with incredibly worthy awardees. Not only were 10 of the newest 12 inductees present, but some of the 50 previous recipients were also in attendance.
This year’s winners are as followed:
Dr. Wolmark, who has spent 40-plus years revolutionizing how we conduct clinical trials and has helped to improve treatments and quality of life for countless cancer patients. Dr. Kirkwood has worked diligently in the field of melanoma and has also led many multi-centered studies developed based on his pioneering work in biologics. Dr. Suit has done much for the oncology community in relation to patient advocacy, but his greatest legacy may be the many future oncologists that have been lucky enough to be his students at Harvard Medical School, where he is a professor of Radiation Oncology.
Dr. Muss has primarily focused on geriatric patients with breast cancer, but his work is consistently being replicated in the field in an effort to better understand breast cancer in all patients. Dr. Fuchs’ work has been invaluable to the field of not only his specialty of gastrointestinal and cancer epidemiology, but to the entire broader field of oncological medicine. Dr. Petrylak is a pioneer in the research and development of new drugs and treatments to fight many genitourinary cancers. Through his work, new treatment options are available in a field that once had very few. Dr. Rai formed the radiation markers that bear his name and we adopted shortly after his conception of the idea. It is the golden standard that we will use for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Cantley has made significant advances in cancer research and his efforts has resulted in revolutionary treatments for cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Gandara has led many large number research projects including early therapeutics trials at various phases. His work has changed how we view lung cancer as a once terminal to now often treatable disease. Dr. Cameron has changed the Whipple Procedure mortality rate from 30 to 2 percent at John Hopkinss under his tenure there. He also has had a long and distinguished career in all other alimentary tract diseases. Dr. Simone immersed himself in the field of pediatric oncology. Through his efforts, we are better able to understand how to treat some of cancers smallest victims.
As evidenced above, there wasn’t anyone in attendance of the event who was undeserving of our gratitude. Because while we speak of the advancements in treatments, these people and the teams that they work with are the ones creating them. And while I’m grateful to all of this year’s honorees and all past recipients for their efforts, I personally feel indebted to Dr. Gajewski. He has written hundreds of papers, and I have read all that have been published.
When my sister was at her sickest she did not have many, if any, options. While searching for research on treatment options, I stumbled upon his pioneering data of immunotherapy. A word I had heard but a field that I knew nothing about at the time. By reading his works and further educating myself, Opdivo (nivolumab) became a target drug. While her team and I pushed for her to receive what seemed like a last effort for remission, I continued to read Dr. Gajewki’s work.
Although a struggle to get approval for her, my sister went on to become one of the first known patients to receive Opdivio for Hodgkin lymphoma outside of a drug trial. It is the pioneering and diligent work being done at Chicago School of Medicine and by oncological medicine teams around the county that give me an immense amount of hope that a cure might be much closer than we think.