In 2013, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer behind only non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s estimated that more than 12,000 people died from multiple myeloma in 2016.
What’s amazing is that number is much lower than in years past, with all indicators of mortality from multiple myeloma improving dramatically over the last decade. Researchers attribute this improvement to the emergence of novel therapies to treat patients with this disease. For me, this story is completely true.
Ultimately, there were a number of innovations that saved my life though one in particular was championed by two Kendall Square legends, Dr. Ken Anderson at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Dr. Julian Adams from Harvard Medical School. Their tenacity and ‘never give up’ attitude saved thousands of lives.
Drs. Anderson and Adams championed a drug called Velcade; now an approved inhibitor of the proteasome, which is essentially the cell’s garbage disposal unit. Velcade is now a billion-dollar drug, though for many years it had a highly uncertain future. Specifically, Dr. Adams had been part of two failed companies while developing Velcade. If not for his steadfast belief in the drug and Dr. Anderson’s support, it might still be sitting on a lab shelf instead of being a successful, widely used treatment for multiple myeloma.
This is just one example of the amazing new therapies coming out of Massachusetts companies, but it’s not a unique story. The road to cures is not a linear process. There are ups and downs, successes and failures. It’s the persistence to achieve your goal, the belief that your work will help people, the never-give-up attitude that fuels innovation. I know our state is full of people who have this attitude, and who are willing to do whatever it takes to bring new therapies to patients around the world.
Thank you, Kendall Square and Massachusetts, for giving me the chance to live. I work every day at my company Frequency Therapeutics to imbue the never give up attitude shown by Drs. Anderson and Adams and all others who have changed the course of disease. I look forward to exploring these issues further at MassBio’s 2018 Annual Meeting and as the incoming Chair of MassBio.
– David Lucchino, Co-founder, President and CEO of Frequency Therapeutics & incoming Chair, MassBio