Leighanne Hartman, MSN, RN, AGNP-C, CHPN, CCRC, the clinical research nurse assigned to the MOUNTAINEER trial on day one (2017) made a special trip to see Elle at her infusion appointment on June 10, 2021. It had been over two years since they’d last seen each other and they had a lot to catch up on — new dogs, growing kids, and summer plans. For Hartman, the experience of working on MOUNTAINEER for two years and meeting Elle inspired a career change. In 2019, she went back to school to earn nurse practitioner certification so she could engage with more hands-on patient care.“Upon first meeting Elle, she gave off such a positive attitude, exuding optimism, while calling on her faith to sustain her. I was in awe of Elle’s determination to live her life, resolute in finding a treatment to prolong her life and put her cancer in remission,” said Hartman, who now works on Unit 9300, an inpatient unit for critically ill cancer patients.
Global biotech company Seagen Inc. announced positive topline results last month of a pivotal phase 2 clinical trial (called MOUNTAINEER) of tucatinib in combination with trastuzumab in HER2-positive metastatic colorectal cancer. Both drugs are used in breast cancer, a type of cancer where HER2 amplification is common. HER2 amplification is uncommon, however, in colorectal cancer.
The idea to test these drugs in HER2-positive colorectal cancer patients was initiated by Duke Cancer Institute GI oncologist and co-leader of DCI's Precision Cancer Medicine and Investigational Therapeutics Research Program, John Strickler, MD, who first reached out to Seagen (then Cascadian Therapeutics and the maker of tucatinib) around 2015.
On August 8, 2017, the first patient nationwide to be accrued — Elle Charnisky — began the trial at DCI.
Now a 5-year metastatic colorectal cancer survivor, Charnisky is still going strong and most recently shared her story at the DCI 50th Anniversary celebration held on April 14, 2022.
Strickler will present the full data at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer in Barcelona, Spain — to be held June 29 through July 2, 2022. According to Seagen, "data from this trial will form the basis of a planned supplemental New Drug Application to the FDA under the FDA’s Accelerated Approval Program."
January 1, 2021, marked Duke Cancer Institute's 49th year as an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first to be so designated by the NCI Cancer Centers Program that grew out of the National Cancer Act of 1971. The NCI Cancer Centers Program is one of the anchors of America’s cancer research effort.
As an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center, DCI has, until recently, maintained eight basic, clinical, translational, and population science NCI-Designated Research Programs — each designed to address research opportunities impacting cancer care.
As of the first of the year, however, the Research Programs have undergone a reconfiguration into seven such programs.
In a recent message to faculty, DCI director Michael B. Kastan, MD, Ph.D., detailed these changes, which included some new program names and some newly appointed leaders. Additionally, Kastan announced the appointments of two new associate directors — in Basic Research (last year) and in Translational Research (this year).
"These changes are a result of many months of discussions among a broad group of DCI leaders and have been enthusiastically endorsed by our External Scientific Advisory Committee," said Kastan. "We believe that these changes reflect the goals of DCI, the expectations of the NCI, and better support the current and future needs and research efforts of our faculty."
Mark Dewhirst, DVM, Ph.D., stepped down from his active faculty position last year, including his long-standing role at DCI as associate director for Basic Research.Christopher Counter, Ph.D., who has been active in DCI leadership for many years, stepped up to fill this important position.
Bruce Sullenger, Ph.D., who has served as associate director for Translational Research at DCI for nearly a decade, recently stepped down from this role.Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., has taken his place.
"We express our sincerest gratitude to Mark and Bruce for their years of dedicated leadership and welcome Chris and Donald to their new roles," said Kastan.
There's a tradition of collaboration between Duke Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, which includes fundraising and raising awareness about breast cancer. There's also a decades-long history of ACS awarding grants to DCI researchers for their work to better understand the complexities of cancer and develop treatments that will deliver the best possible outcomes for patients. The month-long Making Strides campaign has now come to a close, but the research continues.
Walks in the park, a stress-relieving game of fetch, affectionate belly rubs.“Man’s best friend” brings us all that and more.
But, in the case of bone cancer (osteosarcoma), dogs are proving, again, that theycan benefit their humans’ lives in a substantial way. Duke orthopedic oncologist WillEward, MD, DVM, and colleagues are investigating how this link could improve healthoutcomes for children stricken by this disease.
UPDATE 2 (May 10, 2021): The 24-member DCI team raised $7,895.27, topping the Top Corporate Teams leaderboard and coming in third on the Top Teams list. Team co-captain Karen Johnson, MD, MS, took the number 6 spot on the Top Participants leaderboard, having raised $2,793.20.
UPDATE 1 (May 1, 2021): WRAL aired an interview with Sarah Sammons, MD, on the day of the Triangle Race for the Cure — Doctor, daughter, cheerleader sees all angles of breast cancer fight
DCI oncologists and researchers are supporting the Komen mission “for a cure” — fighting breast cancer on all fronts. Learn more & join them on May 1!
The 2021 Susan G. Komen Triangle Race for the Cure, presented by Duke Cancer Institute, is tomorrow — May 1, but it’s not too late to join Team DCI (virtually) at the event !
This year's event will be streamed through the event Facebook page and YouTube. The Race-Day program includes:
a live warm-up at 10 a.m. to send you off and running (or walking) on your 5K self-designed routes
a survivor/thriver virtual meet-up
recognition of the top fundraising individuals and teams
videotaped messages of support from the community
It’s a #RaceWhereYouAre experience. Whether in your neighborhood, the park, the forest, the beach…the sky is literally the limit.
Registration, at a cost of $25, will close at midnight on May 1 (the very end of Saturday), with donations continuing to be accepted well after Race Day. Once you register, you’ll have access to the virtual Race-Day program, but you'll get your Race-Day packet with a t-shirt, bib and a DCI visor in the mail after the event.
Team DCI in currently in second place in the Corporate Challenge and climbing. Captained by an all-star lineup of DCI breast oncologists and researchers including Sarah Sammons, MD, Susan Dent, MD, FRCPC, Karen Johnson, MD, MS, Vijay Paryani, MD, and Laura Rosenberger, MD, MS, Team DCI is raising critically important funds for patient support and breast cancer research.
They’re champions for the cause. Committed to showing support for their patients on Race-Day. And committed to bringing new treatments and treatment strategies to their patients.
“Race-Day is an incredible atmosphere. It’s an atmosphere of achievement and celebration and those two emotions don’t always partner very readily with the words ‘breast cancer,’” said DCI breast radiologist and new-to-the team co-captain Karen Johnson. “So, for the women who have that diagnosis and all of the women who fear that diagnosis, Race-Day is very special. It shows us that there is a community of support and love and it brings us hope.”
Johnson’s research interests include detecting and diagnosing early-stage breast cancer so women have the best chance possible to conquer the disease early.
“The appropriate and best use of breast MRI is of specific interest to me as well as finding ways to help women cope with and reduce the anxiety experienced in conjunction with mammography,” she said.
Vijay Paryani is a breast medical oncologist who sees patients at Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh and Duke Cancer Center Cary. He also does inpatient consults at WakeMed as part of the new Cancer Care + initiative.
Paryani is new to DCI, having joined Duke in August 2020 directly after completing his fellowship at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like Johnson, this is his first year serving as a team co-captain. He’s all-in for the Triangle Race for the Cure and all-in for his patients.
“When my patients see me, they may be going through the scariest and most difficult time in their lives. My goal is always to do everything in my power to improve their physical and emotional well-being. My patients are family to me,” said Paryani who's committed to bringing new clinical trial opportunities to DCI’s Wake County locations. “I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effect this disease can have patients and their families.”
Breast cancer will affect one in eight women in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer) in the U.S. According to the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society, an estimated 44,000 women will die from breast cancer this year.