Welcome! We’re delighted for you to join us for the CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit and for Tamron Hall to be your host and guide for this two-day online event. Tamron will provide an overview of what to expect over the course of the program and how to send in your questions to our experts and speakers. Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey will also share how and why the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) organized these 14 informative and empowering sessions. As the world’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to harnessing the immune system’s power to cure all cancers, CRI has gathered experts to communicate the most exciting advances in cancer immunotherapy research to aid you on your cancer journey.
Tamron Hall: Hello and welcome, thank you for joining me, along with thousands of cancer patients, caregivers and advocates tuning in right now to the Cancer Research Institute 2021 Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit. I’m Tamron Hall and it is an honor to join you again this year for this important program. Like you, I’m at home and I’m going to get as comfortable as possible while we learn about the many exciting breakthroughs happening today in cancer treatment. Over the next two days, you and I are going to learn about a new way to treat cancer that’s called immunotherapy. It mobilizes our immune system to fight cancer, and today our experts are here to tell us how it works and how it might be a treatment option for you or a loved one. I don’t know a person who has not been impacted by cancer in some way. Part of what I do is I get personal, and for me, this is so personal. In the past week, I lost my beloved uncle Mitch, and I was just reflecting over some of the fond memories as a child, watching him dance and enjoy life and serve this country in the military. All of these phenomenal memories I have of him. But the reality is he is not with me today because of cancer, and I know for many of you, the idea of learning something new, the idea of fighting this and learning together is how we can move forward in a hopeful way. So please know I’m thinking of my uncle, I’m thinking of you and all of your family members today as well. Now, the nonprofit Cancer Research Institute has organized this event, and they’ve brought together a stellar group of experts, scientists and cancer doctors who are all here to share with you what they know about the very latest in cancer research and treatment.
This event is your opportunity to find answers that we hope will give you the information and tools you need to discuss immunotherapy with your cancer health care team. The Cancer Research Institute is also providing free, confidential clinical trial navigator consultations if you’re interested in exploring them. These virtual appointments, which are available in English and Spanish, will connect you with a navigator who can help you find a clinical trial that might be right for you or a loved one. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment. The Cancer Research Institute is able to offer this unique program free of charge to you, thanks to the generous support of sponsors who share CRI’s commitment to providing trusted information to cancer patients and caregivers. All of our sessions are interactive, so post your questions in the Q&A box and we’ll try to get to as many as possible, and finally, if you’d like to share what you’ve seen and heard today and share your experience with others on social media, please use the hashtag #CRIsummit. We’ll be following along and liking or sharing your posts and hope you will do the same with ours. All right, are you ready to learn something new about research that is transforming cancer treatment? Let’s get right to it. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you, Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, who is the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Scientific Affairs at the Cancer Research Institute. Over her more than 30 years at CRI, Jill has guided the organization’s philanthropic investment in research spanning from the lab all the way to the clinic, critical work that is making today’s lifesaving immunotherapy breakthroughs possible. Please help me welcome Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey.
Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey: Thank you, Tamron, for that introduction and welcome all of you who are here with us today for the Cancer Research Institute Immunotherapy Patient Summit. I’m delighted that we can make this program available to you from the safety and comfort of your homes. For almost 70 years, the nonprofit Cancer Research Institute has remained focused on one question How can we harness our own immune system to fight cancer? Our pursuit of this question has resulted today in an entirely new way to treat cancer called immunotherapy. It has transformed treatment of some cancers and holds promise for helping even more patients. We’re honored to have top immunotherapy experts here to share with you the latest in cancer treatment and research. They will provide you with information that might help guide your own treatment journey decisions. None of this progress we’re seeing today would be possible without research. At CRI, we continue to push the science forward, funding young postdoctoral fellows up to top physician scientists and clinicians all around the world, all of whom who are working to harness the immune system’s power to fight cancer. Scientific research is making our vision of a future immune to cancer a reality. Sharon Belvin is living proof of this. Almost 20 years ago, she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. Standard treatments had failed and her prognosis was grim. She enrolled in a clinical trial testing an immunotherapy created by CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council director Dr. James Allison. The immunotherapy worked and it saved her life. Let’s hear Sharon and Dr. Allison tell you in their own words, what that experience was like and how their story offers hope to millions of cancer patients today.
Sharon Belvin: When I was 22, I was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. None of the approved treatments at the time worked. I thought that my life was over and it hadn’t even begun yet. And then a miracle happened.
James P. Allison, PH.D.: Sharon Belvin was the first patient that I met, and it became clear to me that this basic science that I had been working on was saving lives. And at that time, you know, surviving advanced metastatic melanoma was something that was essentially unheard of. There was just, you know, this “aha!” Moment, you know, where the tumors just melt. Virtually, no one thought that immunotherapy would work until it finally did.
Sharon Belvin: Immunotherapy turns on your immune system and allows your body to then fight cancer.
Voice Over: The answer to cancer may already be inside every one of us, thanks to decades of research, scientists are now learning how to unlock the power of our own immune system to treat many different types of cancer.
James P. Allison, PH.D.: There’s a unique window of opportunity here to really understand how these different immunotherapeutic drugs work together and with other agents to benefit as many patients as possible.
Juan Cubillos-Ruiz, PH.D.: Saving life starts with the research, and getting cures for all cancers means going beyond the science we already understand.
James P. Allison, PH.D.: The Cancer Research Institute has been the primary organization that’s been supporting the notion of treating cancer with immunotherapy and knows better than any other organization how to get in touch with the right people, find the right kind of research and move this new therapy to even better heights of successfully treating patients.
Juan Cubillos-Ruiz, PH.D.: Funding from the Cancer Research Institute validates our ideas and gives us confidence to pursue them.
Voice Over: A revolution in cancer treatment has begun. Immunotherapy is saving lives today and has the power to save many more in the future. The Cancer Research Institute sees a path to lasting cures and is committed to funding the most promising science wherever it’s being done.
James P. Allison, PH.D.: It’s not just a scientific puzzle.
Juan Cubillos-Ruiz, PH.D.: Immunotherapy, it means hope.
Sharon Belvin: I want every person to have the same chance at life that I had. I know that the Cancer Research Institute won’t stop until that becomes a reality for every cancer patient.
Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey: I’m proud of the work the Cancer Research Institute is doing to advance the science that makes these treatments possible. By funding all stages of research, from the lab to the clinic and everywhere in between, the Cancer Research Institute is helping scientists make new discoveries every day. These discoveries can become the cancer treatments of tomorrow. I hope that our program today will help you become familiar with cancer immunotherapy and that the information we are providing you will help you to discuss with your health care team whether immunotherapy is an option for you or your loved one. I look forward to your comments and questions to the excellent presentations our experts are about to provide. Thank you for being here with us today.