Thursday, February 5, 2009

A difficult anniversary, and the reason why we're here

This is Joy, with a personal note from our family. It's been 8 years today since Paul and I lost our mom and since our family lost its center. As the emotional member of the Row for Hope team I've been nominated to mark the occasion. I could write all day about the person she was, and the loss we won't ever recover from, but I know she'd prefer that Paul and I turn our grief into something bigger and better. That is what we've tried to do in creating Row for Hope, and that is the reason why Paul is pulling the oars every day.

As a reminder of why we're all here, we asked Yale Cancer Center to write today's blog and to describe the critical work that they do. Every additional dollar Row for Hope is able to contribute to their programs is one step closer to a cure for the cancer that changed our family and too many others. Thanks to the countless people who have supported us in this incredible journey. Thanks to Dr. Sznol and Yale Cancer Center for the life-saving work they do every day. And thanks Mom, for giving us life, and for making it good. We love you!

Quote from Dr. Mario Sznol, Co-Director, Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Program

Everyone at Yale Cancer Center's Melanoma Program joins me in thanking Paul and Joy for choosing to help others who will face melanoma in their lifetime. It is a wonderful testament to their character and conviction that they travel this incredible journey to benefit patients and families they may never know. Row for Hope's impact will be both immediate and far reaching. By helping to fund today's research, our understanding of the disease and the treatments we provide our patients in the future will improve considerably.

Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Program

The Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Program is a multidisciplinary team of physicians and scientists dedicated to state-of-the-art clinical care and research to improve the outcome of patients with melanoma. Melanoma can be a devastating disease, and although current treatments can cure or delay progression of the disease in a small number of patients, most patients do not benefit from available therapies. Therefore, there is critical need for research to develop more effective and less toxic treatments.
The Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Programis uniquely positioned to take advantage of existing opportunities to rapidly advance the treatment of metastatic melanoma. It was developed over 25 years ago to discover new treatments and provide state-of-the-art treatment for patients with melanoma. In order to achieve its objectives, the Melanoma Program brings together scientists, experts in clinical research, specialists in melanoma surgery, medical oncologists devoted to melanoma treatment, community oncologists, dermatologists, pathologists, dermatopathologists, and radiologists.

Program Co-Directors

The Melanoma Program is co-directed by Dr. Stephan Ariyan and Dr. Mario Sznol. Dr. Ariyan is a nationally recognized plastic surgeon and former Chief of Plastic Surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital, with 30 years of experience in the care of melanoma patients, and a distinguished record in research of surgical approaches and management of patients with melanoma. Dr. Sznol is the current Vice Chief of Medical Oncology and brings to Yale nationally recognized expertise in drug development and development of immunotherapy treatments for melanoma.

Basic Science Research

The basic foundations of the Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Program are basic research, clinical research, and skilled multi-disciplinary care of patients. The basic research is headed by Dr. Ruth Halaban, a molecular biologist who has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of melanoma biology. Dr. Halaban is Director of the recently awarded Skin SPORE grant, one of only 4 in the country, which supports multiple research projects in melanoma that translate basic science into clinical application. Other members of the Melanoma Program have combined clinical and laboratory programs. For example, Dr. Kluger, has a laboratory program focused on tissue microarrays, which provide a means to discover biomarkers for prognosis and response to treatment, and potential targets for drug treatment. Dr. Kluger's program is closely allied with Dr. David Rimm, who leads the Yale Tissue Microarray Program and Yale's efforts to discover prognostic markers for early melanoma lesions.

Clinical Research

Clinical research initiatives are led by Dr. Sznol. The goal of the clinical research program is to introduce and investigate novel treatments for patients with melanoma. Currently, 6 clinical trials are available for patients with metastatic disease, including novel chemotherapy regimens, anti-angiogenesis agents (drugs that destroy or inhibit the formation of blood vessels that feed tumor), and new agents that stimulate the body's immune system to attack the melanoma tumors. In addition, patients with metastatic melanoma who are no longer eligible for melanoma-specific studies may be offered novel cancer treatments through the Yale Cancer Center Phase I Clinical Trial Program.

Clinical Care

Clinical care of melanoma patients is a coordinated effort of the YCC Melanoma Program surgeons, medical oncologists, dermatologists, radiologists, surgical and dermatologic pathologists, and radiologists. Dr. Ariyan directs the weekly conference in which care and management of patients is discussed among the Program members. Clinical history, physical exam findings, surgical procedures, x-ray studies, and pathology slides are reviewed at the conference, and optimal approaches to treatment are proposed and discussed at length. The Program emphasizes communication with all physicians active in the care of patients. Joining Dr. Sznol in the medical treatment of patients with melanoma is Dr. Harriet Kluger, Associate Professor of Medical Oncology. In addition to caring for melanoma patients, Dr. Kluger is involved in conducting studies on patients' tumors and blood samples and incorporating these findings into the clinical trials of the Melanoma Program, further facilitating bench-to-bedside advances.

Private Support

There are two established research areas within the Melanoma Program that benefit directly from new funding like Row for Hope. The first is non-clinical translational research, intended to develop and test drugs (or combinations of drugs) against specific targets in melanoma cells (identified from basic research), and to develop and test drugs that activate the body's immune system to destroy the melanoma. The second is clinical research, intended to test the best drugs and drug combinations in patients and determine their safety and ability to effectively treat melanoma.


K-Rock and #1 Wild Bill said...

Hi Folks (Paul can skip this one if he wants to). This may not be the most entertaining posting of the trip, but it is the most important. Donate, donate, donate. The kids won't dwell on it, but you should know that Kathie's death was sudden, swift and devastating. She was a lovely,active,vibrant woman one moment and gone the next. Melanoma is a cruel and deadly disease. Donate,donate,donate.The work being done at Yale can have an immediate impact on families. It is outside of most people's comfort zones to ask for money - we can get over it. Word about Row for Hope is spreading around the country and around the world. As you read this blog and enjoy the armchair adventure of Paul's trip,remember that he's not out there just to entertain us.He's out there to help us - to keep other families from suffering the loss his did. And everytime you get another office mate to read the blog, ask them to donate - don't be shy. For everyone who has already donated, there is someone who hasn't. Thanks to those who donated their SuperBowl pool money - how about getting the office to donate the Donut Fund every other week? Or maybe a penny a mile from the kids in classrooms? Post a loose change jar on the receptionist's desk? No donation is too small - every mom, brother, dad, cousin, friend is worth saving. Thanks - and continue to support Paul with your prayers, jokes, comments - xxoo- The Tomics

Anonymous said...


Glad to hear the dip went well!

Our fine politicians in DC are contemplating how many billions to use to stimulate all of us (insert joke of choice here). The great news is of large house buying credits. By the time you are done rowing, I'll have bought my house and I'll have my huge credit and I'll share some more joy with your cause.

I'm sure you're thinking about your mom today. I think I'll go call mine and tell her to donate to Row 4 Hope........

Keep the faith!


Anonymous said...

I was just reading your blog on my iphone while sitting at Lowes Movie Theater on the parkway.

Melissa & Danny VanScoy

Peter Lamothe said...

Everyone at YCC is inspired by Row for Hope and actively cheering Paul's amazing journey! Thank you for choosing to support Dr. Sznol's research and clinical team. Every gift makes a difference!

Peter Lamothe
YCC Development Director