I have devoted my lab’s efforts to the care of people with acute myeloid leukemia."
University Of Pennsylvania Associate Professor Of Medicine, Co-founder Of Carisma Therapeutics And Interius Biotherapeutics
DR. SAAR GILL
A Research Revolution
From Research To Treatment
Research Wins In Action
Fighting On Every Front
Two LLS grants in particular allowed Gill's team to advance a cellular immunotherapy treatment into a clinical setting.
"For a physician-scientist like me, there is nothing like taking a research project that was dreamed up at the desk, tested at the bench and then delivered to patients to see if it really works," Gill says.
I was so excited when
I finished treatment, and I am proud that I beat cancer!"
Leukemia Survivor, First-Grader,
Monster Truck Enthusiast
Quality of healthcare treatment should be available for everyone and not dictated by systemic racial factors or inequality."
2021 LLS Los Angeles Man Of The Year,
Patient Equity Advocate
Meet three LLS standouts who describe their role in the battle against blood cancer, their partnerships with LLS and what inspires them to give their all for a brighter, healthier future for blood cancer patients and their families.
Man & Woman Of
The Year Candidates
Meet the people committed to raising money this year for groundbreaking LLS cancer research and patient-centered support services.
Hematologist Dr. Gill started researching CAR T cells—engineered receptors that can teach T cells to recognize and fight cancer cells—when he first arrived at the University of Pennsylvania. "I have devoted my lab’s efforts to the care of people with acute myeloid leukemia," he says.
Over the past 11 years, LLS has supported Gill's research. "LLS provided some of the funds that sparked the CAR T cell revolution," he explains.
Gill's team found success. Patients with leukemias and lymphomas responded to the CAR T cells, ushering in what LLS considers "a new era" in cancer treatment. "We are now moving towards a new potential treatment for other types of acute leukemia," Gill says.
LLS was an early funder of CAR T cell immunotherapy, dedicating $40 million in research over two decades.
Gill doesn't just receive LLS funding for his research—he helps raise it, too. Last year, he helped raise more than $220,000 for LLS.
"I respect the LLS mission to fund high-quality scientific research," he says. "Since I have benefited from their previous fundraising, I now consider it a personal and professional responsibility to give back."
Learn more about leading-edge research from LLS
Learn more about how LLS provides patients and families with support and education
Liam finished treatment in August 2020—just in time for kindergarten. But not without some fanfare.
"I got a big parade that LLS gave me," says Liam. "I was so excited when I finished treatment, and I am proud that I beat cancer!"
Allison says Liam is already planning ways to support LLS in the future. "He has such a heart for giving back. Even with all he has been through, it has given him a passion to help!”
LLS also facilitates community support, giving patients and families the chance to learn from and be supported by doctors, other patients, survivors and their families—a big boost for both Liam and Allison.
"Sometimes there were other kids getting chemo, and we would play together," Liam says. “My doctors [also] helped me feel better, and, once, the nurses brought me new monster trucks!”
“We found LLS at the perfect time,” adds Allison. “One of the most beneficial aspects of LLS for me has been the connection with other families. Being able to talk with other parents and know that we were not alone in this meant so much to me.”
Allison found the leukemia resources she so desperately needed at LLS. Connecting patients and their families to blood cancer education is central to the nonprofit's mission.
"LLS became our biggest resource," she explains. "I have attended their blood cancer conference, parent seminars, after-treatment seminars and several other educational sessions both in person and online."
At just 2 years old, Liam was diagnosed with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
"It was very, very hard," Liam says. "My mom and dad were very sad, but they helped me."
But Mom and Dad needed help too. “When Liam was diagnosed, we knew very little about blood cancers,” says his mom, Allison Vest. “So, as parents, we were overwhelmed by the journey ahead, and that was a very isolating feeling. I wanted to know more about the different chemotherapy Liam would receive and any side effects that he might experience. I wanted to be prepared to help him in all aspects of his fight.”
A Devastating Diagnosis
The Gift Of Resources
Support From The Community
Learn more about how to become an advocate for blood cancer patients and their families
Opportunities to support healthcare equity for blood cancer patients exist nationwide, from community organizations to legislative action. Hall encourages others to look closely at local opportunities to advance the cause.
"For me, that organization is LLS," he says. "Their commitment, wonderful staff and willingness to constantly evolve to find new ways to help those with blood cancer is why they've been around for more than 70 years."
LLS connects patients with free information and exposure to oncology professionals, patient peers and survivors.
"Knowing someone has gone through something you're going through, and they have made it into remission, can provide an immeasurable boost mentally for patients and their families," says Hall.
LLS also supports patients financially by providing everything from copay assistance to transportation, lodging and childcare support.
In 2020, Hall decided to take action to advance healthcare equity. He partnered with LLS and participated in its 2021 Los Angeles Man & Woman Of The Year' campaign, which he ultimately won, raising the most funds in the region for the nonprofit that year.
“I partnered with LLS [on this] campaign to help raise money for their Myeloma Link program,” Hall says. “Its aim is to drive new breakthroughs and cures, helping all myeloma patients access the care they need to survive and thrive while also intentionally addressing healthcare disparities that disproportionately impact underserved communities.”
Jade-Addon Hall lost a friend to leukemia at age 8, and several other loved ones have battled cancer since. He noticed those with the best outcomes had an advocate with access to medical knowledge—something not every single person does.
"Quality of healthcare treatment should be available for everyone and not dictated by systemic racial factors or inequality," Hall says.
A Heart For Healthcare Equity
Finding An Advocacy Partner
Supporting Patients In Need
Promoting Equitable Care
The Year Candidates
Meet the group of innovators continuing to power the LLS mission of finding a cure for blood cancers.