Dr. Zachary Hunter, Ph.D. in Pathology and Director of Genomics at the Bing Center for Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia drew a crowd of over 60 WMers and caregivers for his presentation “Personalized Medicine in Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia: What It Means and How We Make It Happen” on April 21, 2018, one of our largest number of guests in the four years since the inception of our IWMF Support Group in 2014.

Dr. Hunter, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, offered an up-to-the-minute report of findings in the Treon Laboratory explaining that research is now focused on each individual patient and his/her specific needs (Personalized Medicine). Now the goal is to determine who will respond to certain treatments and who will have negative side effects rather than treating solely based on systems and what form of cancer we have.

Dr. Hunter focused on the intricate inner workings of the human body at extremely microscopic levels. Research is developing cutting-edge therapies that intervene and impact us. Of utmost interest, is the fact that each of us has six billion DNA cells given to us by both parents combined.

As an aside, it was fascinating to learn that Sidney Farber, MD, (founder of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) is regarded as the father of modern chemotherapy. He was the first person to advance the idea to use chemicals to target cancer cells, specifically. Based on WWI and WWII mustard gas warfare, he modified the chemical and applied it to blood cancers finding that it killed rapidly growing cancer cells--the first chemotherapy ever!

As Director of Genomics, Dr. Hunter was involved in a pivotal campaign to define the genomic landscape of WM. These efforts led to the identification of the highly prevalent MYD88 L265P mutation found in over 90 percent of WM patients. His and Dr. Treon’s findings were a key element that led to a clinical trial with Ibrutinib and subsequent fast-track approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. He also succeeded in identifying the first ever reported somatic mutation in human cancer for CXCR4.

Dr. Hunter discussed several treatments including Ibrutinib as well as new therapies such as Venetoclax and Ulucuplomab with more treatments to unfold in the coming months.

A question Dr. Hunter is addressing is whether we can target cancer cells and avoid damaging DNA of healthy tissue or how can we make our immune systems distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells.

A final major concept being investigated is tumor clone evolution: diversification and treatment.

We are deeply grateful to you, Dr. Hunter, for your devotion to the Bing Center Laboratory since 2003 and your passion for improving our lives and finding a cure. Personalized Medicine is the wave of the future and you and the Treon/Bing Center Laboratory are leading the way!

Zach Hunter, Lu Kleppinger, Tony Sabló

Lu Kleppinger, M.A. Ed.
International Waldenstroms Macroglobulinemia Foundation
Support Group Leader
N. Virginia/Washington, DC/W. Maryland