Sami Schwendeman, the Light The Night Manager in Fort Worth, has worked for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for two years. She is driven by the patients the organization serves and the research that LLS funds. Read below about how a recent discovery about her mom's battle with rheumatoid arthritis reinvigorated her passion for the LLS mission.
"My mom has had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for nearly two decades. When she was first diagnosed, she was forced to stop her active lifestyle because of the pain and side effects of this chronic inflammatory disorder. Recently, I discovered that RA and blood cancer are related. Here's how..
A little over 10 years ago my mom joined a clinical trial for rheumatoid arthritis treatment. The trial gave patients an infusion of a medication called Rituxan to treat their RA. After several infusions of Rituxan, my mom’s joints were less swollen, she didn’t cringe when she stood up out of bed, her wedding band fit over her knuckles again...the infusions worked and the FDA approved Rituxan as a treatment for RA in 2006. Fast forward to now, my mom still gets Rituxan infusions to keep her RA in check and will continue to do so. How is this related to LLS? In the early 1990s LLS funded research for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) treatments. The drug that was eventually approved with the help of LLS funding was called rituximab, aka, Rituxan. Rituxan was initially approved as a therapy for NHL, CLL, and other b-cell lymphomas. It later proved to be effective in the treatments of multiple other cancers in addition to RA.
This is not an uncommon trend - 40% of cancer treatments in the past decade were initially approved as blood cancer treatments. The more than $1 billion invested in research by LLS has gone on to impact the treatment of breast, prostate, skin, colon and many other cancers as well as arthritis and Alzheimer's, and is being tested for treatment of HIV, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. LLS is funding critical research, not just for blood cancers, but for all cancers and other diseases.
The mission of LLS is to find a cure for blood cancers and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families - a mission I am extremely passionate about. Who could have guessed that the treatment that would make my mom feel good again would have started as a blood cancer treatment? Talk about coming full circle!"