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How Penn is Taking the Next Step to ‘Treating Untreatable Cancer’

By Michal Clements W’84

As part of Penn’s Year of Health, Chicago area Penn alumni gathered on February 18, 2015 for a captivating presentation by Dr. Bruce Levine, C’84, my Penn undergraduate classmate, and the Barbara and Edward Netter Professor in Cancer Gene Therapy at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Levine

The engaging topic was “Designing and Building Targeted Immunity from Patient’s Own Cells: Treating Untreatable Cancers.” The meeting was sponsored by the Perelman School of Medicine and the Penn Club of Chicago.

Nine highlights of the lively presentation were:

1. Penn was granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for Gene Immunotherapy by the FDA (similar to the TSA Pre Check line for FDA approval). (http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2014/07/ctl019/)

2. As of 2014, the Penn team (Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania) treated over 150 patients with CLL, ALL, Lymphoma, and myeloma with their own engineered T cells designed to kill their cancer. To qualify, all patients must have relapsed following two other treatments.   The overall complete response rate for the ALL subgroup is 90%; Moreover, 70% of this group have failed stem cell transplant prior to receiving their investigational T cell therapy.

Cells

3. Penn’s program and research is expanding to treat a broad range of cancers, beyond CLL, ALL and Lymphoma, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, glioblastoma and others. More information is available here: www.penncancer.org/Tcelltherapy and at http://somapps.med.upenn.edu/pbr/cvpf/

4. Penn’s medical campus footprint has increased seven to ten fold since the early 1980’s when Dr. Levine and I were undergraduates. The new Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2014/09/cact/ center will open in 2016.

5. This treatment is for patients who have not succeeded with other courses of treatment. Cell and Regenerative Medicine may become the next pillar of cancer therapy (after surgery, chemotherapy, radiation). It’s possible that this will relegate stem cell transplants to history.

6. The clinical trial patients are “like astronauts” because they are take the step into the unknown. Pediatric patient, Emily Whitehead, serves as one example. Emily’s treatment been profiled in the short documentary by Ross Kauffman “Fire with Fire” https://vimeo.com/54668275 and in the upcoming PBS Ken Burns’ special “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”, episode 6. The PBS special will air on PBS on March 30th- April 1st.

Cancer Free

7. In August 2012, Penn Medicine entered into a partnership with Novartis to tap into their global research and regulatory expertise. In December 2012, Novartis bought a manufacturing facility. Penn’s program is differentiated from other Gene Immunotherapy programs through this operational capability and expertise (along with the Penn team). At present, manufacturing the CAR T Cells is a very manual process, since each lot is unique- made from the patient’s own cells. Work continues to CAR T Cell make the process more automated.

8. It took approximately 30 years for stem cell transplants to reach the 1 million mark,, a target is that CAR T Cell might accomplish this in half that time.

9. Philanthropy from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy and others funded the initial research. Interested Penn alumni can contribute directly at https://giving.apps.upenn.edu/giving/jsp/fast.do?program=MC&fund=602548

Chimera

Dr. Levine provided ample bonus material, including recommendations for more the upcoming PBS special, and the Fire with Fire VIMEO. On behalf of the Penn Club of Chicago, I want to thank Dr. Levine again and also the Perelman School of Medicine for co-sponsoring the event. Seeing this progress made renewed my sense of pride in Penn!

Welcome

More info on designation is here: http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/legislation/federalfooddrugandcosmeticactfdcact/significantamendmentstothefdcact/fdasia/ucm329491.htm

Putting it in perspective, this is the first for an academic institution, the FDA has previously granted Breakthrough Therapy to only four other biologic agents and this is the first personalized cell therapy for cancer to obtain it.  From October 2013 through June 30, 2014 the FDA received 20 applications and only 3 were approved, the previous year, 10 of 11 applications were not approved.

http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2014/07/ctl019/

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Get Involved with your Reunion

By: Nicole Oddo

Happy 2015! I’m excited to be celebrating my 10th Reunion this May 15th – 17th.

But I decided that I want to do more than celebrate – I want to help make our 10th Reunion memorable.  I decided to get involved and I’m inviting my classmates and fellow alumni to think about it too.

Our lives are busy – work, family, friends, weddings, and other commitments will quickly fill our 2015 calendar but I always want to carve out time to reconnect with Penn, see great lifelong friends, and meet more of our amazing classmates.  I helped on the 5th Reunion and met a whole group of new classmates.  I made wonderful friends at Penn and continue to meet interesting, engaging people through Penn.  I’m meeting new people with amazing creativity and interesting lives already as we gear up for May.

One of my favorite quotes is from author Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Or the other day, I saw something particularly funny and relevant on Pinterest although I don’t know where it originated.

“No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep.”

fp_oddo

We all have limited time but can always use more fun, rewarding opportunities.  Please consider how you can contribute to your class.  There are so many ways to help – from writing emails to planning event logistics to helping host alumni in your city.

Want to get involved?  Email me.

Nicole Oddo,C’05
Reunion Committee Co-Chair
nicole.e.oddo@gmail.com

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The Search for the Best Breakfast Sandwich on Campus

By: Rachel S.

There’s nothing better than eggs in the morning. When those eggs come on softly toasted bread with cheese and other accoutrements, I personally feel that there is no better meal at any time of the day. I’ve recently begun a search for the best egg sandwich in the Penn area, with my first expedition shown below:

sandwichLyn’s: a longtime Penn-favorite for breakfast sandwiches, this beauty is a spinach, egg, and cheese on wheat bread with sriacha hot sauce and ketchup. The egg was fluffy, the cheese melty and gooey, and the bread lightly toasted. It will be hard to top this one! I’ll be posting updates on my egg-sandwich adventure each month.

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One Thousand and One Nights at the Circus

By: Noelle M.

This semester is my second semester acting as Technical Director for iNtuitons Experimental Theater Company! Our show this semester is called One Thousand and One Nights at the Circus. We are collaborating with Stimulus Children’s Theater. This collaboration is especially exciting for me because my roommate Ashleigh is on board of Stimulus Children’s Theater. We are also Co-Costumes Designing.

This show is really spectacular. It is a child friendly adaptation of Arabian Nights, with one small twist… The entire show is set in a circus! The circus performers are also the main characters in the Arabian Nights’ stories. We are also hoping to transform the Harold Prince theater into a 3 ring circus!

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Penn Alumni Regional Clubs Celebrate Ben Franklin’s Birthday

By: Colleen Blair

During the month of January, Penn Alumni Regional Clubs around the world gathered to celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. This year, in honor of Franklin’s 309th, the Regional Clubs team sent clubs “Ben-on-a-stick” kits to make their parties more festive, and encouraged clubs to enter their pictures in our first annual Ben’s Birthday Bash Photo Contest. Check out the winner and other highlights below!

Ben’s Birthday Bash Photo Contest Winner: San Diego

1 San Diego

The Penn Club of San Diego celebrated on January 17, Ben Franklin’s actual birthday, with a dinner and private tour at the Green Dragon Tavern and Museum in Carlsbad, CA. This stunning replica of Boston’s original Green Dragon Tavern, where revolutionaries met to plan the Revolution, was the perfect place to celebrate Ben Franklin!

San Antonio

2 San Antonio 2 San Antonio (3) 2 San Antonio (2)

Also on January 17, the Penn Alumni Club of San Antonio celebrated Ben Franklin’s Birthday in lively and traditional fashion at Youz Guyz Philly Cheesesteaks, the local shrine to South Philly cuisine and Big Five academics and athletics.  Fifteen alumnae and alumni were joined by family and friends, ranging in age from three to ninety-plus.  All guests enjoyed cheesesteaks, hoagies and other Philadelphia delicacies, topped off by the excellent cannoli and a lively game of Quizzo.

Boston

3 Boston1

The Penn Alumni Club of Boston, proud to be Franklin’s birthplace, celebrated on January 17 with a walking tour of the city that featured visits to the sites of Franklin’s homes and haunts in Colonial Boston. After the tour, club members capped off their celebration with cupcakes.

Guangzhou, China

4 China

Ben’s Birthday is a truly global celebration, as shown by members of the Penn Club of Guangzhou. Though located far from Philadelphia, these loyal alumni gathered for a buffet dinner, drinks, and merriment on January 23.

Miami

5 miami 2 5 Miami

In Florida, the Penn Club of Miami also celebrated with food and drink at Batch Gastropub. Ben even got his own birthday cake!

Metro NJ

6 Metro NJ

The Penn Club of Metro NJ got the party started early when they met on January 14 at the home of a proud alumnus. Food, drinks, cake and party games were enjoyed by all!

Long Island

7 LI bens 1 7 LI bens 2

Quakers with the Penn Club of Long Island celebrated on January 22 in style with a four course dinner with wine pairings at Ponte Mollo in Great Neck, NY.

A big thank you to all Alumni Clubs who raised a toast to dear old Ben in honor of his 309th Birthday!

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Five things I love about Penn!

LOVE Statue

By: Kaila Brown

This month will be my 6 month anniversary of moving to Philadelphia and embarking on this crazy adventure! In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fitting to list the top five things that I love about the University of Pennsylvania and my experience thus far.

Five: The LOVE statue

It’s cheesy, I know, but there is something about walking out of Sweeten every day and seeing the statue. My favorite is seeing families, prospective students, Philly tourists, couples, etc. take a picture with the big, bright, red letters. I have yet to do this, but it is definitely on my Penn bucket list.

Four: Locust Walk

I love the way that the path is lined with buildings and centers that look like houses, the way that the trees make it feel cozy. When it’s beautiful outside and students line Locust handing out flyers and advertising for the student groups and events, it feels like a scene right out of a movie. While some may try to avoid it the craziness of these moments, I love it.

Three: Insomnia Cookies

I had never heard of Insomnia Cookies until I came to Penn. I love to bake, but I don’t always have the time. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing I love more than hot cookies. Oh wait, yes there is; having hot cookies delivered to my door. During finals last semester, there was nothing better than being able to order some cookies with my friends to drown our finals sorrows.

Two: Sweeten House

Not only is the office itself beautiful, but so are the people inside of it. I had no idea what would be in store for me when I accepted this position. I had no idea that I would be in an office with some of the most genuine, funny, wonderful people. Working in Sweeten has been a true pleasure and it will always have a special place in my heart.

One: Penn GSE

There were two things that I was sure of when I chose to enroll into the Penn Graduate School of Education: classes would be hard and everyone would be brilliant. I was right. The classes are difficult, and I am continually blown away by my classmates. However, there is so much more that makes GSE an amazing place to be. The interactions and relationships that I have developed with faculty have been truly enriching. I have learned so much in the past couple of months in my classes and am continually excited to go to class each and every day!

I really could go on and on about Penn, and definitely about Philadelphia. There’s one thing that I know for sure, the University of Pennsylvania has stolen my heart! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Penn Alumni Travel, Iberian Trade Routes, 2014

Author: Penn Professor Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, History of Art Department

When our plane touched down at 8am in Barcelona the first thing that I wanted to do was make a beeline to La Boqueria, the recently restored and restocked public market in the heart of the city. Filled with vendors selling raw and prepared foods, glistening fish, octopus, and barnacles fresh from the Mediterranean, and ridiculously indulgent Spanish jamón, La Boqueria is a perfect place to have a quick and hearty gourmet meal, counter-style, so that you can keep on moving and see as much as possible of this amazing Catalan city. We had a lovely plate of foraged wild mushrooms, sautéed in olive oil and topped by a fried egg, a small caña of beer, and some bread before taking in the beauty of the Antoni Gaudí designed Casa Battló.

A cured meat and cheese stand in La Boqueria, the premiere public market in Barcelona.

A cured meat and cheese stand in La Boqueria, the premiere public market in Barcelona.

We had such a fun-filled day in Barcelona that we barely made it to the magnificent MV Tere Moana for our sail away at 6pm that first night. I was very glad that we did arrive in time because the itinerary, which included Mallorca, Ibiza, Granada, Sevilla, Gibralter, the Algarve, and Lisbon, was fantastic.

Of the five different cruise ships that I have enjoyed sailing on as a faculty host with Penn Alumni Travel, the MV Tere Moana was definitely the most elegant and intimate. With staterooms for less than 100 guests, it was very much like traveling on a private yacht. The ship’s charming and well-trained staff attended to the needs of each traveler individually. By the second night Jonny, the bartender knew my preference for a little Tio Pepe sherry before dinner and Macallan for afters, and by the third he was beginning to make suggestions of custom cocktails that I might like to try. And with drinks being all-inclusive, why not?

Our home for the week, the MV Tere Moana, was patiently waiting for us in its berth in Barcelona.

Our home for the week, the MV Tere Moana, was patiently waiting for us in its berth in Barcelona.

Well, the very busy itinerary on this trip was a good reason not to indulge too much. Each day was filled with a morning excursion, lunch back on the ship, and then another afternoon excursion followed by just an hour or two of downtime before a lovely dinner. The tour directors from Gohagen kept everything running smoothly and the local guides at each destination made sure that all our questions were answered, from which medieval people had occupied that fortification overlooking the Atlantic in the Algarve region of Portugal, to where to buy the best souvenirs in lovely Mallorca.

The Portuguese Algarve region is home to lovely old villages and fortifications.

The Portuguese Algarve region is home to lovely old villages and fortifications.

And Mallorca, truly the pearl of the Mediterranean, was the highlight of this trip for me. This was the first time that I had visited this delightful, continental-flavored Balearic island filled with gorgeous nineteenth century architecture and an endless harbor jam-packed with enormous yachts. I could have spent the whole week in Mallorca sitting in cafés, drinking coffee and eating lovely pastries.

Almost as satisfying as Mallorca were the stunning cliffs of Gibralter, alive with wild monkeys and riddled with natural caves and military tunnels. I was surprised by how happy the monkeys made me, they were just so cute and funny and absolutely everywhere — climbing on the parade of minivan taxis that snake up and down the side of “The Rock” ferrying tourists to the various attractions that are only reachable via closed roads. As a part of Great Britain with a special economic status, Gibralter was the spot to get a plate of fish and chips and also the best deals on duty free, which seemed to be the main attraction down at sea level.

“The Rock”

“The Rock”

The monkeys of Gibralter are surprisingly fun to watch.

The monkeys of Gibralter are surprisingly fun to watch.

Visit Penn Alumni Travel at http://www.alumni.upenn.edu/travel

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