3 Changes Coming To Clinical Trials

Lessons Learned, Uncategorized

Clinical Trial Changes

If you have a “rare” cancer that doesn’t have a great standard of care, chances are you will be offered a clinical trial. To the general public (which is who we all are before that diagnosis is presented) clinical trials sound like a scary thing. To a cancer patient being told there is no cure, a clinical trial is a lifeline being tossed in a stormy sea. IF you catch it, it MIGHT help save your life.

So how do you pick a clinical trial? Well, first you have to find one that you qualify for. We’re going to assume that you have a doctor who is really helping you and is presenting you with some choices. So you have a couple of clinical trials and the “standard of care” to choose from. How do you decide? Right now, it’s a guessing game, but all of that will be changing rapidly as technology and open access data become more commonplace in the process.

  1. You will have more concrete data to help make decisions. I have seen some pretty impressive technology being developed by Clalit Research Institute in Israel that will help a doctor walk through a list of weighted questions with a patient that will help them make this difficult decision. (That program was developed using data made available from a clinical trial, and as more data becomes open access, I think we can expect to see more applications like this developed.) Each patient will be able to rate a list of possible side effects and based on their feedback, an algorithm will provide guidance on particular trials.
  2. You will know more about what “successful” patients look like. As data begins to become collected in one place, it is easier to compare patients on a genomic level. Researchers will be able to compile profiles of successful patients to help determine who has the greatest chance of success on a trial. My son participated in a clinical trial where one patient was doing really well. We had no idea if David would have the same results because there was very little data to tell us why the first patient was successful.
  3. The system will start to find you. Right now, clinical trials are found largely by patients and doctors sifting through websites like clinicaltrials.gov to find possible trials. In the future, doctors will enter your information into the computer, and then you will be pre-qualified based on your exact diagnosis and personal information. The computer will then present a list of potential trials that you can choose from.

This all might sound a little too good to be true, but the fact is, the infrastructure is already in place. Cavatica.org is an open access research platform that Dragon Master Foundation and others have been funding for more than three years now. It houses a patient’s full genome and biosamples from the patient, and sometimes the patient’s parents. It also links to the patient’s clinical records so we can have a longitudinal view of that patient. I believe it is the single most complete picture of a patient you can get, and we are working hard to make it available to everyone. (At the moment, it is largely working with pediatric brain cancer data, but the platform is built to expand as funding becomes available.)

Data like this can take a lot of the fear and guessing out of treatment, and it should lead us to more successful treatments and cures. We are on the cusp of a meaningful shift in cancer care, and I’m excited for this to start really impacting patients lives.

What is Your Field of Dreams?

Uncategorized

Field of DreamsIt occurred to me today that I don’t really get to talk to our supporters enough. Working on Dragon Master Foundation has turned into a full-time volunteer job for me, and most of the time, my head is down on one project or another. The work doesn’t stop coming, but I am so thankful to be in this position – doing this on behalf of cancer warriors. I wanted to stop for just a moment today, and let you know what your support has made possible this week. (And yes, it is only Tuesday!)

You helped give encouragement to a researcher who has developed a program around brain tumor tissue donation. We will be sharing a lot of his work over the next few months, but sometimes, they just need to hear that their work matters. As he told me about the extremely sacrificial gift he works with in his lab, I could hear the emotion in his voice. Tears gathered in my own eyes as I thought about the sacrifice our family has made, and I hope you all know that giving families this final way to make a difference is a truly valuable gift.

You helped gather feedback on the recently launched research platform, Cavatica, from a man who has dedicated most of his nearly 70 years on this planet to cancer research. He spoke with wonder in his voice of the things he is able to accomplish with this technology – things he never thought possible!

You helped give hope to a group of innovators who are developing a big data algorithm that can make treatment recommendations based on a patient’s DNA. They had been struggling to find the amount of data needed to test their theories, and now they have a source for their work.

These were conversations filled with hope, and that is what we are funding. When we started Dragon Master Foundation, it was because we had some audacious ideas about how to help researchers. Less than four years in, we have accomplished so many of the goals we set out to achieve. There is a real-time, open access platform where hospitals can share genomic and patient data. As I type, there are more than 15 hospitals sharing that data with agreed upon data standards. That alone is more than most people thought would be possible. Like the movie Field of Dreams, this is a real life “if you build it they will come” situation.

Which leads me to the best kind of problem to have. We can’t seem to fund the progress fast enough. We have delivered a tool to the nation’s top doctors who are eager to use it, but we need to fund the data to go inside. Putting the data into Cavatica means truly empowering precision medicine. It means we will be on our way to saving lives. If you’ve ever faced cancer, for yourself or a loved one, then you know that today matters.

There’s another great quote in Field of Dreams that applies to this situation. Archie Graham says, “We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, “Well, there’ll be other days”. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.” It’s easy to let days slip by without taking action, but one day, there won’t be any more chances. We have to seize the opportunity now! Not because there won’t still be data to add tomorrow, but because there are lives being lost today. Every day is life or death to someone. So let’s work with urgency now to save more lives tomorrow.

 

Who’s Really the Enemy Here?

David's Journey, Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized

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When someone you love is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the gut reaction is to attack that disease. That’s certainly how we felt when David was diagnosed, and our initial efforts were focused on ending Glioblastoma (GBM) because that was the type of tumor David had. We were not involved in the world of research, and that seemed the most logical  course of action to us. To strike back at the thing that struck at us.

We thought we knew how to help. As we learned more, we realized that we needed to help find cures for brain cancer as a group of cancers because there is a lot that can be learned by studying them together. We also felt like we needed to help that community as a whole because they are so underserved. A broader goal brought us into contact with many more researchers, and many more ideas.

We were energized by some of the sharpest minds in research, and realized that the kind of analytics we wanted to do are really best empowered by studying all types of cancer, and even other diseases, in tandem. The most cutting-edge research points to cancer being mutations in genes and studying the mutations, regardless of the starting point in the body, is leading to new research pathways.
Cancer is a disease that has plagued humanity for generations. In all that time, we have mostly dealt with it as a disease of a particular body part. We now know that it is much more complicated than that, and we need to empower researchers to follow many pathways.
David had a bright and curious mind. For him, helping researchers was never really about helping himself. It was always about helping other people and solving the puzzle of cancer. Brain cancer is the beast that took David from us, and we would love to see that disease wiped out for good. But what if the answer to curing brain cancer lies in pancreatic cancer research? What if the answers we seek lie in the cure for  fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive? (That’s a super interesting rare disease that has been connected to the brain cancer DIPG. You can learn more about that here.)
It’s human nature to strike back at the thing that hits you. But do we really even know what that thing is? Dragon Master Foundation is focused on putting all of a patient’s information into one giant research platform. It’s a database, yes, but it is also a place where researchers can collaborate and gain access to biosamples. It has a patient’s full genomic data, but it also has their treatment path over time. It gives us a more complete picture of what is going on with the patient and what treatments are successful. It can help us understand why certain patients do well on a clinical trial and some don’t. And possibly most important, it looks at patients across many disease types to compare and contrast things like gene mutations. Instead of having one small group of researchers working on a problem, this platform makes it possible for any researcher, anywhere on the planet, to work on high quality data to help find cures.
Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday. It’s a time when people around the world put a few of their hard-earned dollars into the hands of a charity that they hope can change the world. I’m convinced that Dragon Master Foundation is one of the most deserving places you could make your donation. Here are a few of the reasons why:
  • No one at Dragon Master Foundation gets paid.
  • We direct all of our research dollars directly into this one project that is already speeding research. (One doctor said that it shaved a month and a half off of his typical tissue request workflow!)
  • This project has the potential to help patients with cancer as well as a host of other medical conditions.
  • Through this portal, research can be done on both adult and pediatric populations.
  • It was listed as part of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Fact Sheet.
  • It is open access – meaning researchers don’t have to be part of a special consortium to access the data.
  • It is cloud based – meaning the researchers don’t have to download petabytes of data that can take days to acquire. It also means they are not dependent on their hospital’s computational power because they can do their work directly in the web.
Dragon Master Foundation isn’t the only foundation funding this. As of right now, there are 13 hospitals and more than twice as many foundations putting resources toward this project. However, many of them have a specific disease focus where they direct their resources. By donating through Dragon Master Foundation, you can be assured that your donation will go to building the infrastructure that will help all patients, all researchers. This isn’t just a gift to help researchers. This is a gift for mankind. This #GivingTuesday, you can  be part of the generation that changes the world.

#Cavatica Cancer Research Database Has Launched!

Uncategorized

The day is finally here, and I am so excited! Today is the day the beta version of Cavatica launches to the cancer research world. A dream we had almost three years ago is coming true today. It’s not done. Technically, it will never be done. It will always be adding new patients and more information. Putting that aside, it isn’t as “done” as we want it to be. There is more functionality to add. There is plenty of DNA sequencing yet to be completed. But today, there is a pretty awesome database that is already unlike anything else cancer researchers have had access to before.

If you know a doctor or researcher, please tell them about this awesome resource. We will continue to build it out and make it better, but I think they will be blown away – even right now. (Say those last three words in your best Southern accent. That’s the only way to truly give them the emphasis they deserve.)

Here is the official press release:

The Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC) and the Pacific Pediatric NeuroOncology Consortium (PNOC) conclude Brain Cancer Awareness Month of May with the announcement of the Beta launch of Cavatica, a new cloud-based environment for securely storing, sharing and analyzing large volumes of pediatric brain tumor genomics data.

Cavatica will, for the first time, allow doctors, researchers and data scientists unparalleled access to pediatric brain tumor genomic data paired with a suite of analysis tools in a cloud computing environment that enables scalable, faster and more robust research. Upon its full release, Cavatica will host the largest standardized, integrated, and quality-controlled genomic database of pediatric brain cancer genomic data.

Working with Seven Bridges, a biomedical data analysis company, the eight CBTTC site members and 15 member hospitals of PNOC are further fulfilling their commitment earlier this year to the White House Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) with the launch of the Beta version of Cavatica being announced today. The Beta release will be open for subscribed end-user input and will be iteratively enhanced by ongoing implementation of advanced platform features and deposition of additional data sets over the coming months. These datasets will include additional pediatric cancer supporting pan-cancer pediatric data analysis in partnership with additional consortia. including the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team.

Sign up for access to the Beta release of Cavatica is available for researchers and data scientists by going to cavatica.org.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the CBTTC at CBTTCadmin@email.chop.edu

Where Does the Money Go?

Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized

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Starting a foundation is expensive. We spent thousands of our own dollars to get the foundation up and running, and even now, our board members regularly pay for things out of their own pockets so that the expense doesn’t fall to the foundation. To date, we have donated over $100,000 toward building this shared database. Our board and our supporters have generously helped us get to where we are today, and we have an exciting opportunity just before us that I thought you might want to help with.

You see, we make connections with people around the world. Telling them about our data sharing project with CBTTC and asking them to help. Our foundation has brought many new voices to the conversation, and that conversation is about to happen in person with at least 15 hospitals and foundations. It’s an expense for the foundation, and we would love your help in sending some of our board members to participate in this momentous event. We need to fly to New Orleans and spend a couple of nights in a hotel. The conference is paying for some of the meals, and typically our board members pay for their own meals while traveling, so that isn’t part of the expense. We are also only covering part of the cost of their flight because we want them to all have a personal commitment to the event. We will have a full day of meetings followed by an evening of discussion. We are taking a videographer with us who can help us share the story of what happens with all of you. 

If you believe that our collaborations are making a difference, please help us get our board to this conference. Every donation to this campaign will be used to further the conversation about the importance of sharing data between hospitals. We’d like to take some branded items with us to help folks remember who we are and be able to reach back out to us as they have more questions after the event. Here’s a breakdown of what I think the expenses will be:

Promotional items $500

Expenses per attendee:

Flights $500

Hotel $480

We have eight people who will take time off work to attend this event with us, so that would be $7,840, plus the $500, for a total of $8,340. That’s not including ticket fees, etc, so I’m setting the goal at $9,000. 

We’ve talked a lot about open access. You hear more and more about the patient experience on the news. All of those words are good, but for the most part, the world is still segregated into the medical community and the rest of the world. This conference is changing that. We will have a room full of passionate advocates sitting side-by-side with the doctors and researchers who need our help. We are building a global team to fight this war on cancer. 

Want to help? We value every contribution! You can see our individual fundraisers and make a donation here.

(Please note that they are just now setting up their pages, so there may be a few more pages appearing over the next few days.)

Brain Cancer Action Month 2016

Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized

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I had big plans to be super organized heading into May this year, but for various reasons, it just didn’t happen. So here we are, on May 4th (Star Wars Day!), and I’m just now making a post about all the ways you can get involved this month. There was a big event on May 1st in DC, Race for Hope, so I’m sorry for not getting word out to all of you in time to participate in that. It was only the first of many events this month, though, so without further delay, here are some ways you can get involved:

Wear gray. It’s the most simple way to show your support. Grey is a pretty bland color, though, so to really get people’s attention, you might need to draw some attention to yourself. Maybe some crazy hair, or a Hawaiian shirt on top of your grey… something te get people wondering what’s going on with you. 😉 You can even take a gray selfie and enter to win a prize!

Change your profile picture. Make your profile image go gray this month. Need some inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board.

Support on online fundraiser. Maybe you’re busy. We get that. So skip coffee or drinks for one day and donate that money to an online fundraiser. You can find some worthy places to donate at these links:

Sponsor a runner in California here , here , here or here

Sponsor Runners in Iowa

Sponsor a runner in Kansas here or here

Sponsor a runner in Pennsylvania here

Sponsor a runner in Virginia

Go to an event! This one is a little bit trickier because the events are in specific geographic locations, but if you can make it to one, please do! The folks that organize these events put a lot of hard work into them, and it physical events can be a real boost for survivors. I’m listing the ones I could find by date and then location.

May 14th

4th Annual Race for Hope DSM – Des Moines, IA

San Diego Brain Tumor Walk – The Waterfront Park, San Diego, CA –

May 15th

Comedy Night – Hollywood, CA

12th Annual Team Billy Ride & Walk for Research – Saratoga Springs, NY

Boston Brain Tumor Ride – Waltham, MA

May 21st

CureFest 2016 – Humble, TX

Bay Area Brain Tumor Walk  – Crissy Field, San Francisco, CA

Charleston Brain Tumor Walk – Mount Pleasant, SC

I am sure I’ve missed a lot of events for the month due to lack of research time. Do you have an event or activity to share? Please add it in the comments!

#MomentsofMagic

Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized

Cancer can be one of life’s most difficult challenges. It has brought more pain to my life than I care to remember, but it has also given me great awareness of the little moments in life. I think it teaches a lot of people about gratitude, frequently in ways we wouldn’t imagine. I know trying to imagine what it is like to live with a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, especially if you think about it being your child or other loved one. It’s sad and scary, and well, I don’t want to think about it either. But I do want to bring attention to the need for research. I want you to think about ways we can cure cancer. I want you to think about it all the time – like those of us who have been faced with it in our daily lives.

But how can we think about it, and act on it, without being overwhelmed by it? After talking with a lot of folks, I think I found a way to shed some positive light on the issue. We’re going to start a sort of gratitude journal, where we can focus on those little moments that are good, that are special because they are so normal. We want you to see how grateful cancer patients and their families are for those little things.

So here’s what I need from you. I need you to start sharing those moments with me, so that Dragon Master Foundation can share them with the world. We’re going to call them #MomentsofMagic . They can be anything you want – as long as it was a moment that was special to you as a cancer warrior, caregiver, loved one or friend. We’d love to share pictures with the stories as well, so send whatever you would like to share to amanda.haddock (at)dragonmasterfoundation.org.

Together, we can focus on the positive. As Dumbledore would say, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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Turn $1 into $5,000!

Dragon Master Foundation

Missing Piece HeartWe stumbled across another online competition. This one is for $5,000, but it ends on Sunday! Since Sunday is Valentine’s Day, this seems like the perfect chance to share your love with someone in a very meaningful way.

The app is free, but it is only for iPhone users running OS 8.1. That limits the pool of potential helpers a little bit, so we are depending on all of you to help us spread the word. The app is pretty straight forward, but I’ve had several people ask questions, so here’s a quick walk-through:
SmallTokenhomescreen
1. They download the Small Token app.
2. Launch the app & click “Give A Gift”

 

 

 

 

 
3. Enter the email address of the person they want to honorSmallTokenDonatescreen.
4. Choose Dragon Master Foundation as the nonprofit (Type in “Dragon Master” and you get it)
5. Enter an amount. $1 is fine!!
6. Schedule the delivery – anytime between now and any future date.
7. Enter a personal message. It can be a thank you, a Valentine wish – anything!
8. Hit “preview”
9. You will see an orange screen with a heart. At the bottom, you can hit “edit look” to change the color and the icon. Pick what you like, then hit done.
10. Hit “continue” & you will be directed to Give Lively where you can enter your payment information. After you enter your info, click the donate button.
11. You will get a Thank You message, and you are all done!!

I know that looks like a lot of steps, but really it is pretty simple.

Please go enter a donation today and actively encourage others to do the same. We just started last night, and we’ve gotten over $100 in donations already, so it is worth a few minutes of your time.

If you would like to help spread the word on social media,  here are some possible tweets:
Pls download @SmallTokenApp and send a greeting to help @DragonMasterFdn win $5,000. #charity with the highest # of donors wins.

Thank someone today by donating to @DragonMasterFdn in their name w/@SmallTokenApp. You could help us win $5,000! #endcancer

Help win $5k for #research 7& give a #cancer warrior a smile by donating to @dragonmasterfdn & sending a greeting through @smalltokenapp!

 

Thanks & have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

I Got Nothing

Dragon Master Foundation, Lessons Learned

  As I sit here with a riot of thoughts, I realized none of them were really cohesive enough to make a decent blog post. When I tried to find the right words, my brain came back blank. I got nothing. Why is that? 

Part of it is because what half of the world mostly wants to hear is the good and positive stuff we are doing to change the world. That’s fun to write, but it doesn’t seem to spur people to action. The other people in the world want to hear the horrible stuff. I’m a bit appalled at the number of supposed childhood cancer awareness advocates on social media who really don’t want to share anything other than pictures of dead and dying kids. It’s disgusting, and yet they have tons of followers.

Tonight I don’t have a story that would fall into either of those categories. There was no amazing advancement today. None of the kids I’m following died – praise Jesus! No, today was simply a day where parents I know watched their children play or eat or go to school, knowing that there is a monster growing inside of them. A savage, bloodthirsty monster slowly changing their brain. These parents live every day in a place of panic you can only know if you have been there. Doctors look at you with sad eyes. You know the look most people get when they go on hospice, or run out of treatments. Our kids and their parents get those looks on the day of diagnosis. Because while there are treatments, they are not highly successful. They try them because once in a while, the treatment will work. If we could see each child on a molecular level, we might be able to figure out why one child lives while many others die. That’s what Dragon Master Foundation is trying desperately to do. And we are desperate. We know the panic. The fear. The absolute powerlessness. 

I spend a lot of my time trying to help people understand that we are at a critical juncture in time. We have a chance to impact lives in the most real way imaginable. The work we are doing alongside many partners will impact the way research is done. We are flipping the model. The old way isn’t good enough. We have other tools – better tools- that are within our reach. We could get there faster if people would just pay attention. It is hard to remember to do something like vote on social media every day. But it’s not nearly as hard as facing someone with a cancer diagnosis knowing you didn’t even try.

Tonight I feel both blessed and disappointed. Blessed by so many people who went truly out of their way to help us with our bid to win $500,000 from Microsoft. And my heart is sorely disappointed in those who didn’t make the slightest effort to help us in this or other attempts. You’re busy. I get it. I used to be “busy”, too. Ironically, I’m busier now that I have ever been in my life. It won’t bring my son back. But it will save someone else’s child. How soon it does is up to each of us. 

Seven Ways To Celebrate “National Cancer Survivor’s Day”

Uncategorized

7 Ways To Celebrate National Cancer Survivor's Day

National Cancer Survivor’s Day is a relatively new day of recognition on my radar, but I think it is really important. It is significant to me because I sometimes need a reminder that there ARE people who are surviving cancer. You see, I do a lot of work these days with the DIPG community – a pediatric brain cancer that claims the lives of nearly every patient. For them, being a survivor means you are alive today. It is the most stark reminder that we should all appreciate each day. Every. Single. Day.

So on this day to honor survivors, I thought I’d touch on some things you can do – every day – to make a difference for those fighting the cancer battle. I really want to focus on the “mundane” things that most of us do every day, so I’m gonna go through my typical day and show you how easy it is to make a difference.

#1 Social Media – When I get up in the morning, I typically check Twitter or Facebook to see what my friends are up to. I like to share their positive messages and I frequently share a message about cancer fundraisers. (Even if you can’t afford to participate in a fundraiser, sharing it on social media is a powerful way to help.)

#2 Pretty Flowers – In the summer, I will typically let the dog out and then wander into the back yard with him for a minute or two. I like to check the progress of the flowers, and that reminds me that National Brain Tumor Society has a bulb fundraiser that lets you have a annual reminder of your gift to their cause.

#3 Recycling – Back inside, I usually grab a quick bite to eat and then shower & get dressed. As I use up containers, I drop them into a small box for recycling. The salon I frequent has signed up to help with recycling, too, so our containers add up pretty fast.

#4 Wearables – What I’m wearing each day will vary, but on “casual” days, it’s almost always some sort of awareness shirt. Dressier days see me wearing a wristband, bracelet, or necklace. On a good day, I can wear all four things!

#5 Online Purchases – Then it’s usually time for the computer. If I need to order anything online, I make sure I check the vendors that use iGive.com or AmazonSmile so I can donate a percentage back to Dragon Master Foundation. My emails have a tagline that points people back to those simple ways they can raise money for charity. I really think everyone should use AmazonSmile. It doesn’t cost the participant anything, and it can add up quickly for the charity.

#6 Social Media – Ok, I know I’m listing this again, but things go by pretty fast on Twitter, so one tweet a day won’t necessarily reach a lot of people. During the day, whenever I end up on social media, I try to add a Tweet for the cause.

#7 Food – At the end of the day, we either make something at home or go out to eat, but either way, I’m careful to pay attention to the brands that support cancer research – especially brain or childhood cancer research. Those are much harder to find that other types, but you can bet we are there when Chili’s supports childhood cancer awareness every year! And our grocery store, Dillon’s, lets us donate a portion of our grocery bill to Dragon Master Foundation each time we shop with our rewards card.

So there you have it. Seven easy things you can do nearly every day to make a difference in the battle against cancer. Maybe if we all make it a daily effort, there will be a few more survivors to celebrate next year when this day rolls around.