LLS is a driving force behind breakthroughs in treating blood cancer patients. Below are just a few highlights that showcase the progress that’s been made during LLS’s six decades of relentlessly focused research support.
The first chemotherapy drugs were developed for lymphoma and leukemia patients, including children. William Dameshek, M.D., Joseph Burchenal, M.D., George Hitchings, Ph.D. and Gertrude Elion, D.Sc. were leaders in this new field. Drs. Hitchings and Elion received Nobel prizes for their work, and helped guide LLS research funding in the early years.
The first combination chemotherapy was developed for childhood leukemia patients. Emil Frei, M.D., James Holland, M.D. and Emil Freireich, M.D. led the effort and Dr. Freireich advised LLS research programs from our inception.
The first successful bone marrow transplants were performed. E. Donnall Thomas, M.D. served as long-time advisor to LLS and received the 1990 Nobel Prize for his breakthrough work.
Cancer-causing “oncogenes” were discovered. Geoffrey Cooper, Ph.D. and J. Michael Bishop, M.D. were among the leaders of this new field; both served as LLS advisors.
The 1990s to present
Molecular understandings of normal and malignant blood cells make new “targeted” anti-cancer drug therapies and immune-stimulating therapies possible, as well as supportive-care “growth factors” that can revitalize patients’ blood systems after chemo- and radiation therapies.
Understanding which genetic and molecular abnormalities cause particular blood cancers has more recently led to new targeted drugs that selectively kill cancer cells, generally sparing normal cells and causing fewer side-effects than previous standard therapies. LLS funded these advances at critical points. What’s more, many of the blood cancer treatments we’ve funded have gone on to benefit patients who have other types of cancer.