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Between 2012 and 2018, TargetCancer Foundation (TCF) invested nearly half a million dollars in research grants focused on improving understanding and treatment for esophageal cancer. This rare cancer, which starts at the inside lining of the esophagus and grows outward, was highly underfunded and had no effective treatment options at the time.

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Recognizing the critical need for resources to advance research and improve patient outcomes, TCF issued an initial 2012 grant to the Bass Lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Run by Adam Bass, MD, a leading physician-scientist in the field of cancer genomics and gastrointestinal cancer, the lab was embarking on the most extensive genomic study of esophageal cancer ever attempted. Aided by TCF’s investment, Dr. Bass’ study made a groundbreaking discovery of new driver mutations in esophageal cancer, which paved the way for new therapeutic targets.

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To accelerate the search for treatment options that could respond to these new targets, TCF identified and funded a cutting-edge immunotherapy study in the lab of Michael Goldberg, PhD. Then a rising star in the rapidly growing field of cancer immunotherapy, Dr. Goldberg leveraged TCF’s investments to spark new projects and collaborations—with Dr. Bass and others—that correlated the genomic features of esophageal cancer with immunotherapeutic targets.

I truly appreciate the foresight that TargetCancer Foundation had. Their interest truly helped to spark new projects and new collaborations that took our research forward in ways that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. In this case, by jumpstarting a new collaboration between Michael [Goldberg, PhD] and me, TargetCancer Foundation helped launch a whole new avenue of research with a stunning capacity to impact the treatment of patients with esophageal cancer.

Dr. Adam Bass

TCF Grant Recipient

Dr Adam Bass

The collaborative work between these two scientists, supported by TCF, went on to yield significant discoveries. Specifically, it led to the identification of immunotherapeutic targets for which approved treatments in other cancers already exist.

These discoveries led directly to a new clinical trial at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, testing an existing immunotherapy against esophageal cancer.

Through 2018, TCF provided funding for in-depth studies related to this trial, allowing for a better understanding of why some patients respond to immunotherapy and, just as importantly, why others do not.

Think Tank on Advancing Gastroesophageal Cancer Research

Think Tank on Advancing Gastroesophageal Cancer Research

In addition to providing esophageal cancer grants, TCF also initiated the Think Tank on Advancing Esophageal Cancer Research in 2015. This unique, two-day scientific meeting addresses the challenges facing researchers and clinicians in gastroesophageal cancer.

TargetCancer Foundation also served as the Lead Project Engagement Partner on the Esophageal and Stomach Cancer Project, a patient-focused research study launched in 2018 as part of the Count Me In initiative at the Broad Institute. TCF worked directly with outside advocacy organizations and patients on outreach efforts and to ensure that the project was customized to the specific needs and interests of the esophageal and stomach cancer patient and caregiver communities.

Esophageal and Stomach Cancer Project Website
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Grants Awarded: $435,000


Adam Bass, MD

Michael Goldberg, PhD


Dana Farber

Read a patient’s perspective on immunotherapy

The exciting aspect of this new line of research is that in the coming decade, many other check-point inhibitor pathways will be discovered and explored, and will be exploited by new agents that may be both safe and will enable the human immune system to destroy cells from all cancers including rare cancers.

Bill Drake

Rare cancer advocate

Bill Drake, Patient