As LLS’s chief medical officer (CMO), Gwen Nichols, M.D., plays a critical role in advancing cures through a unique combination of clinical, academic and pharmaceutical experience. She oversees LLS’s scientific research portfolio, patient services and policy and advocacy initiatives. A physician and scientific researcher, she has dedicated her career to advancing cures for cancers.
Most recently, Dr. Nichols was oncology site head of the Roche Translational Clinical Research Center, where she worked to develop new cancer therapies, translating them from the laboratory to clinical trials. Prior to joining Roche in 2007, Dr. Nichols was at Columbia University for more than ten years, where she served as the director of the Hematologic Malignancies Program.
Dr. Nichols trained in internal medicine at the University of Chicago and completed post-doctoral research and a hematology-oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where she was an attending physician. She received her medical degree with honors from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Dr. Curran received his medical degree from Georgetown University. His residency was at Tufts-New England Medical Center. His fellowship was in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Curran is a pediatric oncologist who specializes in bone marrow transplantation. He treats children and young adults who have hematologic malignancies such as leukemia, disorders of the bone marrow that impair the ability to make normal blood cells, and disorders of the immune system that impair the body’s ability to fight infection.
His research focus is on the development of novel treatment approaches for leukemia and lymphoma that do not respond to current therapies. Specifically, He and his colleagues use genetic manipulation of immune cells to recognize and kill cancer cells. This is a promising form of gene therapy and is currently being tested in clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for children and adults with high-risk or relapsed hematologic cancers. Through these are highly innovative studies, we hope to provide a novel and successful treatment option for all patients with cancer.
Michelle W. Marks, lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Rich, 14-year old daughter Lainey and 13-year old son Quade. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master of Business Administration from University of Denver. She has spent close to 25-years within the medical device industry developing and commercializing innovative medical treatments. Currently she is Director of Global Marketing for Terumo BCT, a global leader in blood management, blood safety, therapeutic apheresis, cell therapy and cell collections.
In April 2016, Michelle and her husband, Rich, were presented with devastating news their then 9-year old son, Quade, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) with monosomy-7, a deadly type of blood cancer not common in pediatrics. Quade was given 4-8 weeks to live without treatment. After months of inpatient hospitalization, four rounds of intensive chemotherapy, countless blood transfusions (all of which were collected on equipment developed by Michelle’s employer Terumo BCT), and a stem cell transplant, Quade is now cancer free!
With strong passion for advancing medical research and proven business leadership, Michelle is a strong advocate for advancing cancer research, ensuring access to affordable care and innovative therapies, and improving the lives of cancer patients and their families.
Question 1: What would you tell someone just starting the cancer diagnosis journey?
Michelle: Know your resources, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Connect with people who’ve been through it.
Question 2: What do you think about supplemental therapies?
Dr. Curran: If you are a parent, you know your child best. Do what you can to ease their journey. We welcome a lot of things to help decrease side effects. There are websites and journals you can find that will tell you if the supplement you are curious about has any interactions with chemotherapy.
Question 3: If families themselves want to look at clinical trials, do you have a resource for families to look at research?
Dr. Nichols: LLS has a clinical research source to help you learn more about trials, whether or not they are open, etc. Call LLS and ask to talk to a clinical trial navigation nurse about trials appropriate for the patient. They can match you with a list of available, open, and appropriate trials to take back to your own doctor to discuss.
Question 4: How did you choose a pediatric center?
Michelle: We met with the two hospitals available to see which medical team felt like a good fit for us. I always encourage patients and caregivers to seek the best fit for them.
Question 5: Michelle, You mentioned a 504 plan. Did you have to organize this, or did someone at the school initiate it?
We had to initiate it ourselves. This all felt like a second full-time job, learning and advocating for our son, but it’s imperative to educate yourself and seek options for your child.
Question 6: For an ALL patient, what do you do about swelling?
Dr. Curran: If his kidneys and heart are functioning well, then it’s okay. If it’s clearly not an allergic reaction, that’s okay too. But if you are unhappy with your answer, you can get a second opinion from another physician. You are your child’s best advocate.
Question 7: How do you ease anxiety in children?
Michelle: Our whole family was in therapy while Quaid was in treatment and afterwards. Talking about it really helped. Venting and finding ways to relax was crucial. For kids, art, or athletics could help decrease anxiety. There are many resources available, but don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for your family.
Dr. Curran: You have to take care of your mental health and find an outlet. Always try to find support groups or counseling, even if things are good. It’s just helpful to have that resource. You can even find online support.
We acknowledge and thank the following Link Partners for their ongoing support.
• The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
• Incyte Corporation
• Pharmacyclics & Janssen