Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A thank you story

Julie and I had lunch with our friend Stacie a couple of weeks ago, and she's a professional biologist. I said that I was interested in contacting whichever research scientist deserves the most credit for developing Tarceva, the anti-cancer drug that made the biggest difference for Dad. She agreed with my implication that for a drug to make it to market, there are a lot of people involved, so it's hard to give any one person credit. But fortunately, the easiest person to find would be the one who filed the original research.

Yesterday, she came up with a name and sent me this:

Hi Glenn,

I found him with some help from a chemist friend! But I can't find contact info yet--I will keep trying. I did see he is on LinkedIn but I dont' have a way to access him there since I don't have the upgraded membership. His current company doesn't seem to have a website although that google search is what took me to find him on LinkedIn. I could try pinging former OSI colleagues since I know their email formula and some of his former colleagues are surely still there.

From his bio at Pharminox (he is on the Board):

Lee D. Arnold PhD
Dr. Arnold has an exceptionally broad research background in synthetic and medicinal chemistry, structure-based drug design, cell biology, biochemistry, drug metabolism, and biophysics. With pharma industry experience from Syntex, Pfizer Central Research, BASF/Abbott Bioresearch, and OSI Pharmaceuticals, he brings a history of over 22 years of industry contributions in molecularly-targeted small-molecule drug discovery in oncology. In his most recent corporate position as Vice President of US Research at OSI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. from 2003 to 2007, Dr. Arnold oversaw discovery research in Cancer Chemistry, Biology, and Leads Discovery.
During his career Dr Arnold has played an integral role in delivering 7 innovative drug candidates into development for Oncology. One of his inventions, Tarceva ®, the first potent, selective, reversible EGFR inhibitor demonstrated to improve survival in lung and pancreatic carcinoma patients, has become a marketed blockbuster. Four others, including first-in-class selective inhibitors of IGF1-R and TORC1/TORC2 continue to advance in cancer clinical trials.
Dr. Arnold is currently President & CEO of DiscoverElucidations , aiding academic researchers, fledgling biotechs, and large pharma in discovery and development efforts in a range of therapeutic areas. He is also a visiting professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a member of the Institute of Cell Biology and Drug Discovery. He is recognized in oncology drug discovery through his inventorship on over fifty patent filings, thirty peer-reviewed publications, and numerous presentations, disclosing more than 15 distinct chemotypes of kinase inhibitors.

Well taking that to Google made it easy to find a presentation he did with his contact info, and then I wrote him this note:

Dr. Arnold,

I believe (based on published research as well as your bio at Pharminox) that you were instrumental in the development of Tarceva. I lost my father to lung cancer last July (2008), but it is without question that his condition and enjoyment of life was substantially improved starting with when he started taking Tarceva in May 2006. This was tremendously important to my family, not only because we got that much more time with him, but because we needed all that time for him to meet my only child. My wife and I adopted a girl from China in March 2008, and what we originally thought was going to be a 1 year wait turned into 2 1/2 as China's process slowed way down. It meant the world to me that my father was able to spend several months with my daughter.

Thank you to you and your team for giving us that. I'm sure there are many other similar stories out there and you have every reason to feel that your work has made a real difference in people's lives.

Glenn Mar
San Francisco

And today he wrote me back!

Dear Glenn

Many thanks for your e-mail. You are correct, I was the inventor of Tarceva, but as you are aware the discovery of the drug was a team effort that involved many dedicated scientists. Unfortunately, Rodney Schnur, a coinventor on the patent covering Tarceva and related molecules did not survive lymphoma to see it reach the market.

I also lost my father to lung cancer - just before Tarceva was approved - and understand the significance of the precious time and quality of life. Your message was truly uplifting. Drug discovery is a roller-coaster ride, often with more disappointments than conquests, and in the lab we are far removed from the patients we hope to aid. Your encouragement helps keep cancer researchers eternally optimistic and motivated – and believing that they may make a difference in some small way. Since Tarceva, I have moved 6 more potential drugs toward the clinic, and I will continue to work to discover new agents which hopefully will provide greater life extension and improved quality of life.

Thanks again for your inspirational message.
Best wishes to you and your family.

Lee D. Arnold

Pretty cool, huh? Thanks, Stacie!



achiappanza said...

Posted for Stacie, who was foiled from doing this by some blogspot fu with the validation codes...

"How great! Glenn, what you did really made a difference too. So many scientists work hard their whole careers and never receive such a nice note. In part this may be beacause it's hard to know who to thank when so many scientists were ... Read Moreinvolved in the entire process--this is true. But, I also think it's partly that people don't think to do it. Fewer than 1/10 drug projects become approved for use in human disease. It's sometimes hard to be sure what motivates us to work in an area where we are destined to fail most of the time. In the end it's the potential, however small, to impact lives in a positive way. That's why it's ok to fail--because those more rare successes matter so much. Thank you for being so thoughtful. I hope someday one of my projects has this level of impact!"

achiappanza said...

And here's one from Mom... From: Nancy Mar
Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2009 9:40 AM
To: Glenn Mar
Subject: Re: A nice story


What a wonderful contact you made with Dr. Arnold! How often does he hear from people who were impacted by his research? So it was really great that you wrote him and expressed our appreciation.

Thanks, Son. It meant a lot to me that you did this.

Also thanks to Stacie for getting all the initial information for you.


Julie and Glenn said...

Beautiful work, honey. Thanks Stacie. Thanks so very much to Dr. Arnold and his crew.

Peace, Julie