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Expanding Sarcoma Treatment Options

Dr. Brenda Weigel

Dr. Brenda Weigel, review contributor

“Deeper understanding of disease biology may expand sarcoma treatment options” - HemOnc Today, July 10, 2017

That’s the title of a good up-to-date review of sarcoma. There are over 50 major types of sarcoma. Some of these sarcoma types don’t have many subtypes, an example is synovial sarcoma, and some have many, for example osteosarcoma. Researchers found over 60,000 mutations when checking the DNA in 107 patients. Most of these mutations don’t have a role in cancer, some are just a part of growing up. Sixty of the 107 patients had mutations that could be treated, what these researchers called actionable. Most of the treatments are not cure, or disappearance of the tumor, just slowing of growth.

Ewing’s sarcoma has a translocation in the chromosomes. That is relatively easy to find, yet treatment for this “obvious” abnormality has so far proven disappointing. Many sarcomas don’t have readily findable markers in testing the DNA, making it a challenge to treat some of these cancers.

Dr. Brenda Weigel of the U of Minnesota commented that treating these cancers when they recur is especially difficult. She stated; “Over the last decade we have gained a much greater understanding of some of the biology that is relevant to different types of sarcomas, but it has also shown us that we know very little.” Olaratumab is a new drug that has shown some help in phase two studies, and that is encouraging, the first drug to show benefit in osteosarcoma in the advanced disease situation. The contemplated phase 3 study will evaluate the drug in a larger population. Not yet ready for general use.

Erybulin mesylate was approved by the FDA in 2016 and is the first drug to show benefit in liposarcoma. In 2015 Yondelis (trabectidin) was approved and was the first approved treatment for liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma in 30 years!

So much research is being done into the biology of cancer, and also sarcoma, worldwide. Examining the deep abnormalities in the genetics of cancer has opened new doors and stimulated the work toward new drugs. It is hopeful.

Larry Seymour, MD

RIS Board Member

Link to the referenced article in HemOnc Today, July 10, 2017

Welcome Janelle Calhoun as Our Executive Director

Janelle Calhoun PortraitThe Executive Search Committee composed of TRC members: Sarah Giga, Julie Rose, and Eileen Pinto as well as Deb Cossette, Sue and I is pleased to announce that Janelle Calhoun will become Rein in Sarcoma’s Executive Director effective July 1st.

We chose Janelle for this important role after interviewing many fine candidates.  Our selection process was developed and managed by our Talent Resources Committee (TRC).

Janelle graduated from St Olaf College with a major in Mediation and Dispute Resolution.  Her broad professional background includes varied roles at Mesaba Airlines, Eli Lilly and Thrivent Financial Services. As a pharmaceutical representative, she learned a great deal about the health care industry and relating to medical professionals.  For the last six years, she has been an award winning Licensed Financial Services Representative.

As a close friend of Karen, Janelle has been in leadership positions within Rein in Sarcoma since our inception in 2001. This has included serving on the Red Flags of Sarcoma Educational Committee (four years), our Development Committee (current), Registration co-chair for the Party in the Park, and Chair of the 2016 Party in the Park, and three years on our Board of Directors.


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Dr. Randy Hurley – Leads RIS Pilot Educational Efforts

Dr. Randy Hurley is a hematologist/oncologist at Regions Hospital and Medical Director of HealthPartners’ Cancer Care Program. He has been involved with Rein in Sarcoma since its onset. He was Karen Wyckoff’s medical oncologist and attended the very first RIS event with her. He has since attended nearly every Party in the Park and maintains a close relationship with Pete and Sue Wyckoff.

Dr. Hurley graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy. Before and during medical school, he worked as a clinical pharmacist on the hematology-oncology ward at the University of Wisconsin. He completed his internal medicine residency and chief resident year at UW as well. During this time, he was involved in basic science research on extracellular matrix proteins.

In 1991, Dr. Hurley came to the Twin Cities, where he completed a hematology-oncology fellowship at the University of Minnesota and spent an additional year investigating hematopoietic stem cell adhesion to extracellular matrix proteins. He has been at Regions Hospital for over 20 years, the past nine of which have been spent as the Medical Director of HealthPartners’ Cancer Care Program. Dr. Hurley also holds a special interest in global health. He is board-certified in tropical medicine and has had an ongoing health care project in Tanzania for 15 years.

Early influences in his career drew Dr. Hurley towards a career in hematology-oncology. Working with cancer patients, he says, is both an art and a science. His career provides both inspiration and challenge on a daily basis. According to Dr. Hurley, because sarcomas are so rare, many primary care physicians may not be familiar with how they present. This poses a unique health care challenge.

Dr. Hurley is leading a RIS pilot project at Regions Hospital and HealthPartners to increase awareness of sarcoma cancers among medical providers with the goal of significantly reducing the amount of time between the onset of sarcoma symptoms and a proper diagnosis. As a part of this effort, he is heading up a RIS Task Force with Robert Gao, 2016-17 Sarcoma Scholar; Brittany E. Mathews, Senior EPIC Specialist for HealthPartners Oncology Service Line; Tim Michalski, CEO of Point of Care Decision Support, Jay Syverson, President of Point of Care, Decision Support; Christian Ogilvie, MD, RIS Board of Directors; Pete and Sue Wyckoff. The Task Force is seeking to develop an electronic medical record alert to help Primary Care Physicians to recognize and appropriately evaluate suspicious soft tissue masses at an early stage. This pilot project is a key part of the efforts of the RIS Hallie Anne Brown Educational Initiative.

Interview by Robert Gao, 2016-17 Sarcoma Scholar

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