By Belinda Ehrlich, LRG Program Associate &

Erin Kristoff, Newsletter Editor

And the winner is…

After careful consideration, the Life Raft Group has chosen the recipient of the GIST Clinician of the Year award – Dr. Jonathan Trent of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Dr. Trent, a tissue sarcoma specialist, has received numerous awards for his work in GIST research. He is the principal investigator on many GIST clinical trials and his ongoing trials include examining the use of Gleevec alone and in combination with novel drugs in patients with metastatic GIST and the combination of imatinib with surgery in resectable GIST.

Dr. Trent has also published many abstracts and research articles in leading journals and is a frequent lecturer on the topic of GIST.

Dr. Trent earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and his M.D. and Ph.D. in cancer biology from The University of Texas Health Science Center. He completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center, and a fellowship in medical oncology at The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Trent is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology.

LRG members were asked to nominate whom they believe to be the best doctor or nurse. The winner receives the award at Life Fest on Saturday, June 26 at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Long-time LRG member and 7-year cancer survivor Butch Eller’s nomination was chosen as the winning entry due to his admiration and dedication to Dr. Trent. Not only did he write about Dr. Trent’s merits, but he faxed over 20 of Dr. Trent’s research articles to the LRG office as evidence! Butch has also won a free trip to Life Fest to present the award to Dr. Trent himself.

Tree of Life

As a part of Life Fest 2010, the LRG is also asking members to contribute to the Tree of Life project. The Tree of Life is a wonderful opportunity to show your appreciation for all the good things that you have experienced since your GIST diagnosis. This is your chance to tell the world just what this time has meant to you. Trips you’ve taken, anniversaries celebrated, births of grandchildren, degrees finally earned… whatever events you’ve been alive to experience since your diagnosis can be a part of your Tree of Life.

For those with a loved one that has passed on, don’t feel as though you can’t participate. Feel free to fill out a Tree on his or her behalf. Creating your Tree is fun and easy.

The Tree of Life is a creative way to “count your blessings.” Show the world all you’ve done as a GIST survivor!

The deadline for contributing to the Tree of Life has also been extended to May 15, we urge you to take advantage and participate today.

Life Fest overview

It has been a remarkable decade for the GIST community as scientific discovery, medical treatment and drug development have put GIST at the cutting edge of cancer treatment and care. Between 2000 and 2010, GIST has gone from being a misdiagnosed rare cancer, with only a 5% response to treatment, to one of the best understood cancers, where patients can now expect an 85% response to treatment. 2010 marks the tenth anniversary of a breakthrough in GIST treatment as the first group of patients to receive an oral drug to treat metastatic GIST will reach their 10-year survival benchmark.

The Life Raft Group will be celebrating this amazing decade of achievement at Life Fest on June 25-27, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, NJ. On Friday night, June 25th Life Fest will open with a gala event: GIST 2010—A Decade of Difference. The evening will feature a look back at the key scientific and medical milestones over the last ten years and a look forward to the most promising treatments and discoveries on the horizon.

For this occasion special recognition will be awarded to a select group from the GIST patient, medical, scientific and pharmaceutical communities who have contributed not only to the understanding and treatment of GIST, but also whose accomplishments have made a difference to the survival of GIST patients. These honorees will be spotlighted for their accomplishments at the gala and inducted into the GIST Hall of Fame. The Humanitarian of the Decade Award, recognizing the most outstanding accomplishments over the last 10 years will be given jointly to Dr. Daniel Vasella and Dr. George Demetri, (also serving as Honorary Chair) for their roles as leaders in GIST research and clinical care, and for personally being responsible for saving the lives of countless GIST patients. The celebration will continue throughout the course of the weekend with other key awards including Clinician of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.

A retrospective of GIST scientific discoveries and medical advances as well as profiles of the Life Fest honorees will be featured in the Life Raft Group’s newsletters and communications in the months leading up to Life Fest. The complete GIST historical retrospective and honoree profiles will then be compiled for a special commemorative program that every Life Fest attendee will receive.

The Life Raft Group will be gathering stories from all those who’ve been involved on the front lines of GIST—patients, family members as well as scientists, doctors and nurses who fight alongside them. These stories of courage, perseverance and determination will be featured throughout Life Fest.

Life Fest will be a celebration of survival and hope and a time to recognize the enormous courage of every patient and family member who has battled and continues to battle GIST. Life Fest will offer the entire GIST community—GIST patients, their friends and family members, GIST medical professionals, researchers and scientists—an opportunity to come together to honor and celebrate the past and to forge a path forward to find a cure.

Event Highlights

GIST 2010 Gala Celebration— Friday, June 25, 2010:

A special night of celebration and recognition with proceeds going to LRG’s Pathway to a Cure research program:

• Humanitarian of the Decade: The last ten years of GIST progress would not have been possible without Dr. Daniel Vasella (Novartis Pharmaceuticals) and Dr. George Demetri, (Dana Farber Cancer Institute), two extraordinary men whose contributions to GIST have saved countless lives.

• GIST Hall of Fame: GIST champions from the scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and patient communities will be honored for their contributions.

• 10 Year Commemorative Program: Profiles of the honorees and a history of GIST scientific and medical advancements including profiles of those fighting GIST on the front lines.

Life Fest—Saturday & Sunday, June 26-27, 2010:

The world’s largest gathering of GIST patients and caregivers with two days of workshops, meetings and presentations and recognition for the GIST community, including:

• Volunteer of the Year: The LRG will recognize one volunteer for outstanding service.

• GIST Clinician of the Year: A patient- driven contest to select a GIST Clinician who has gone beyond the call of duty. Read about the winner above.

• Tree of Life: A pictorial opportunity for GIST patients to display the good things (including special trips, new grandchildren, etc.) that have happened to them since diagnosis because of the advancements in treatments.

• Workshops (partial list) include GIST Treatment Overview, Drug Developments, Clinical Trial Update, and Side Effects Management.