Robert Chen, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, has been named the 2010–11 recipient of the Tim Nesvig Research Fellowship in Lymphoma.
The fellowship was established in memory of Tim Nesvig, a lifelong athlete and marketing executive who worked for ESPN/ABC Sports. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma in 2003 and underwent a stem cell transplant at City of Hope.
Sadly, his aggressive form of lymphoma stopped responding to therapy, and he died at the age of 30 in 2005. The Nesvig family established the fellowship and a research fund, under the direction of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and chair of the department, to advance research into novel lymphoma treatments at City of Hope.
“I am truly grateful to the Nesvigs for offering me this chance to advance research into lymphoma,” Chen said. “I believe there is great potential to speed up the progress toward better treatments that could help people like Tim overcome their disease.”
Chen will use the fellowship to further his research into targeted therapies for lymphoma. Unlike treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, these therapies interfere with specific mechanisms that help tumors grow and spread. That means they hold promise for fighting disease more effectively while reducing side effects that many cancer patients experience.
Currently, Chen and his team are conducting several phase I and phase II clinical trials of an antibody-based treatment that targets a specific type of lymphoma called CD 30-expressing Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Preliminary results are promising.
Chen also is developing a new therapy aimed at mantle cell lymphomas that have grown resistant to chemotherapy. In laboratory studies, this new treatment kills cancer cells with smaller doses of chemotherapy by using synthetic RNA to shut off genes involved in chemotherapy resistance.
“Private support is crucial to research seeking better treatments for lymphoma,” Chen said. “We’re fortunate to have the partnership of the Nesvig family and all who support this research fund.”
The Tim Nesvig Lymphoma Fellowship and Research Fund is a donor-supported fund that has generated nearly $7 million through various fundraising initiatives, including the annual City of Hope Golf Classic. To date, the fund has enabled 34 researchers at City of Hope to pursue their most promising ideas for detecting, treating and potentially curing lymphoma.
Organizers expanded the fund’s scope for the 2010-11 year. To enhance scientific collaboration and accelerate the process of discovery, they also provided resources for scientists at other national hubs for lymphoma investigations: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Washington.
The most recent City of Hope Golf Classic, held on July 26 at the prestigious Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., raised more than $1 million, thanks to the support of corporate sponsors such as FOX Broadcasting Co., News Corp., Comcast, Cynopsis Media, October Moon Television, DIRECTV and Zenith Media, along with individual donors and friends of the Nesvig family.
Past recipients of the fellowship include Defu Zeng, M.D., associate professor in the departments of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research and Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, Anna Scuto, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Department of Molecular Medicine, and Ryotaro Nakamura, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.