Tag Archives: Herceptin

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann – Cancer Warrior

13 Apr

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann was profiled in the Sunday, April 11, 2010 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. The story was featured on the front page. It  provides a personal look at what drives the new leader of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I was fortunate to have worked with Dr. Desmond-Hellmann while at UCSF. For me, she is a role model.

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Dr. Desmond-Hellmann is credited with helping to create an industry powerhouse (Genentech) and bringing the world’s most successful anti-cancer drug treatments to market.  These include Rituxan, the first drug to use monoclonal antibodies, which works by attacking specific types of cancer cells; Herceptin, the seminal drug which opened the doorway to personalized medicine by targeting the HER2 gene, which defines a specific subtype of breast cancer; and Avastin, the first angiogenesis inhibitor to stop tumors by preventing the formation of new blood vessels.

In the article, Bob Cohen, a senior Genentech executive best describes Desmond-Hellmann: “(she has a) sense of obligation that runs deep…I think she has always loved UCSF, and she also has deep spiritual beliefs. She’s also brilliant. A quick study. And she never disappoints…She used all she knew to develop a portfolio of oncology drugs…She was a gifted manager of people and resources, and she bet on the right horses and was able to get them to the finish line.”

“What’s possible for patients” has been a  consistent theme throughout Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s career. She sums it up in the article: “It’s a life-changing moment for someone to be told they
have cancer,” she said. “So I’ve always felt this incredible commitment
to being a part of something that can help them.”

Desmond-Hellmann has been both a champion of and game changing pioneer in oncology translational research – taking the basic understanding of biology, science and technology and using that deep understanding for the direct benefit of patients. She helped fundamentally transform the way we research and treat cancer, and improved and helped extend millions of lives worldwide.

Today, as Chancellor of UCSF, she is taking her experience to the next level and applying it to finding treatments and cures for  an even broader array of the world’s most devastating and unsolvable diseases. The future of this great institution is in good hands.

The World’s Most Powerful Innovators of 2009: UCSF Makes the List

15 Nov

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UCSF’s Chancellor, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH,  was selected by
FORBES as one of its 7 Most Powerful Innovators of 2009. You can read
the story here.
According to the article, Desmond-Hellmann’s  most influential
innovations were  the blockbuster cancer drugs Avastin and Herceptin. What makes Desmond-Hellmann an innovator?

"Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a physician and cancer researcher, is a hero to
legions of cancer patients. While president of product development at
Genentech from 2004 to April 2009, she played an integral role in the
selection, testing and development of Avastin, a colon cancer drug with
annual sales of $9 billion, and Herceptin, a breast cancer drug with
sales of $7.8 billion. In August 2009 she became the chancellor of
UCSF, a powerhouse in medical research, where she aims to continue
fostering innovation in health care and science".

I-Spy Trial Offers Key Insights Into Locally Advanced Breast Cancer

30 May

Dr. Laura Esserman, director of UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Care Center is spearheading the development of a clinical trials model designed to accelerate and improve the efficiency with which experimental breast cancer therapies are assessed.  The strategy, which involves the use of molecular markers and MRI, utilizes “adaptive design,” in which drugs are assessed over the course of months – rather than decades – and the information used in real time to direct the course of a trial.

The series of studies are known as I-SPY (investigation of serial studies to predict therapeutic response with imaging and molecular analysis) and are being carried out  in patients with locally advanced i.e., aggressive – breast cancer. The goals of I-SPY  are to establish a clinical trials model that supports the identification of drugs targeting the molecular profiles of aggressive cancers, and to reduce the duration of the drug-assessment process from the current 15 to 20 years down to a few years.

Dr. Esserman’s team presents several findings at ASCO today.  One provocative finding shows that large, locally advanced forms of breast cancer often emerge between regular mammogram exams. These “interval” cancers present an important opportunity for doctors and patients to take advantage of neoadjuvant therapies in advance of surgery, with the hope they would be responsive. The other finding is that using molecular markers, UCSF researchers identified a subset of patients who do well regardless of how they respond to neoadjuvant treatment. They also identified a subset  with poor prognosis for whom response to neoadjuvant therapy is a good predictor of long term outcome.

Read the press release:
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