Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Wednesday, 19 October 2011 16:38
About 60,000 people in the United States have multiple myeloma (MM) and more than 20,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Right now MM is incurable.
Myeloma is an affliction that involves plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) reproducing out of control and causing damage to organs. Multiple means it is happening in different places throughout the body. Instead of creating cells that help the immune system, these cancerous cells leave no room for healthy cells – causing a range of symptoms, from frail, easily broken bones to kidney failure. A life expectancy of only a few years is not uncommon, but people are fighting to change that.
In 1998, Kathy Giusti, a former pharmaceutical executive and graduate of Harvard Business School, was diagnosed with MM. Along with her twin sister Karen Andrews, an attorney, they formed the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). Their goal was to stimulate the development of treatments that would allow Kathy to live to see her children grow up.
Now, the mission at MMRF has been to “break down barriers slowing biomedical research and bring patients the treatments they urgently need.” The MMRF “relentlessly pursues innovative means that accelerate the development of next-generation multiple myeloma treatments to extend the lives of patients and lead to a cure.”
A major source of fundraising for MMRF is its Fall Gala. The event is in Connecticut, but attended by people from all over Long Island and the tri-state area, as well as the whole country. The gala is, in fact, attended by over 1,000 people, including many celebrities and the nation’s most prominent business executives and high-impact philanthropists.
The 15th Annual MMRF Fall Gala will be held on Oct. 29 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.
This year, the MMRF will be honoring music icon Stevie Wonder with the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award at the event, presented annually to individuals who inspire hope with their perseverance in overcoming personal obstacles. Michael McDonald and Darius Rucker will be the featured artists performing a tribute concert celebrating Stevie Wonder along with additional surprise performers.
Deborah Norville, best-selling author and anchor of Inside Edition, will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies.
The event will also feature silent and live auctions. Past auction items have included: an invitation to the exclusive Grammy Awards, a luxury vacation in Anguilla, backstage passes to a Justin Bieber concert, a premier suite for a Yankees game, VIP tickets to the Today Show Summer Concert Series, a guitar autographed by Paul Simon, and more.
Kathy told Healthy Living Digest: “Thanks to the amazing generosity of those who have supported the MMRF Fall Gala, we have made incredible progress in helping to bring patients new drugs that have almost doubled life expectancy. Funds raised at the Gala allow us to urgently and aggressively develop the next-generation of lifesaving treatments—providing great hope and changing the outlook for patients fighting this still-fatal disease. It is with the help of all those who publicly support our efforts to deliver new treatments to patients, that true progress is possible.”
Where exactly do funds go? According to MMRF staff, the MMRF is the world’s number-one private funder of multiple myeloma research and has raised over $170 million since its inception to fund nearly 120 laboratories worldwide, including 70 new compounds and approaches in clinical trials and pre-clinical studies and has facilitated more than 30 clinical trials through its affiliate organization, the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC).
The MMRF also calls itself “one of the nation’s most groundbreaking cancer research organizations.” Press materials state that “funds raised by the MMRF have accomplished outstanding achievements such as helping to bring four new myeloma drugs to market, more than doubling the patient life expectancy post-diagnosis around the globe, opening clinical trials 60 percent faster than the industry standards in oncology, and sequencing the multiple myeloma genome. The four treatments the MMRF helped bring to market are now standard therapies for patients with multiple myeloma and are being explored as treatments for more than 30 other cancers. The MMRF business model is highly regarded by peer cancer and rare disease organizations as a premier model for accelerating drug development.”
Visit www.themmrfgala.org to learn about the fight against MM and for information on the Fall Gala.