Susan Smith didn't have to look far for an institution that would honor her sister, Linda Chapman Golden, who lost her life to multiple myeloma.
As a research data coordinator working with patients in clinical trials at MD Anderson, Smith witnessed for more than a decade how philanthropy helps doctors save lives. She met with Robert Orlowski, M.D., chair of Lymphoma/Myeloma, to discuss how myeloma patients might benefit from an endowment in her sister's memory.
Orlowski, whose father, Marian Orlowski, M.D., was nominated for the 2004 Nobel Prize for research in proteasome activity, told Smith about some of the research going on in his lab. One focus area that sparked her interest is the development of preclinical cancer models to understand common genetic abnormalities of tumors. Through the genetic analyses of patient samples, Orlowski explained, researches learn about the many subtypes of myeloma, which allows physicians to determine who gets what treatment, as quickly as possible. Collecting, processing, storing and analyzing these patient tumor samples, however, can be quite expensive, he added.
Smith also learned that when Orlowski was a postdoctoral fellow at John Hopkins School of Medicine, he found that cells die more quickly when put in contact with proteasome inhibitors. With this knowledge, he laid the groundwork for bortezomib, the first drug targeting the proteasome, now used to treat tens of thousands of patients with multiple myeloma.
"It was exciting to advance my father's research from the lab to the patient," says Orlowski. "I'm proud to have built upon his life's work."
Orlowski's determination to find enduring treatments inspired Smith to help establish, through her family's Jake and Nina Kamin Foundation, the Jake and Nina Kamin Endowment for Multiple Myeloma Research in Memory of Linda Chapman Golden.
"For years, I got to witness how clinical trials helped patients in need of hope," says Smith, who is now retired. "It's my family's desire to bring hope to patients at MD Anderson."