On September 6-7, we had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual CAR-TCR Summit in Boston. The Emily Whitehead Foundation was represented at this year’s conference by board members Jessi Ayoub and Jodie Potter, and joined by CAR-T cell therapy patient advocate Nicole Gularte.
In partnership with the CAR-TCR Summit, the Emily Whitehead Foundation hosted a silent auction for the conference attendees. A few unique auction items included a painting by Emily Whitehead, tickets to our inaugural Believe Ball, and various New England sports memorabilia . The most popular item was a pair of T-shirts from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Penn Medicine’s celebration for FDA approval of CAR-T cell therapy, signed by Dr. Stephan Grupp, Dr. Carl June, Dr. Bruce Levine and Emily Whitehead. The T-shirts sold to the two highest bidders for $1,550 apiece.
All together with donations, the conference raised $6,000 for the Emily Whitehead Foundation!
We are incredibly thankful to all who donated and participated in the silent auction. With your generous contributions, we will be able to fulfill our mission of supporting pediatric cancer research for less toxic treatment options, such as CAR-T.
Nicole, Jessi and Jodie each spoke at the conference. Nicole spoke Thursday morning and started out by sharing a personal milestone: Exactly one year ago to the day she had received her first CAR-T cell infusion. She told the room to a round of applause, “Today is my little cancer-versary.”
Nicole, diagnosed at age 26 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, battled her disease for seven years before connecting with Emily Whitehead Foundation co-founder Tom Whitehead and being able to enroll in the adult CAR-T cell trial at Penn Medicine.
“To see people like you in the field working on something so passionately, I just can’t explain to you how good it feels to be a patient, and having you guys make that come true,” Nicole told those assembled about her experience. “I feel very fortunate.”
“We all want the same thing,” Nicole said to end her presentation. “We all want to cure cancer. We all can achieve it by working together, by collaborating, by sharing stories, by giving back, by inspiring others, by hope, by honoring the ones we have lost, by encouraging the ones who need it, and, like the Emily Whitehead Foundation, reaching out and helping others when they need it most.”
After announcing the silent auction prize winners, Jessi and Jodie closed the conference Thursday afternoon.
“Emily made me a believer,” Jessi said, after sharing how she came to be involved with the Emily Whitehead Foundation. “The 150+ kids’ lives who have been saved from T-cell therapy made me a believer, and many people in the cancer community, including yourselves, make me a believer.”
“It’s the minds in this room and patients families who took the leap, continued to fight, and shared their stories that will allow us to continue to expand upon this treatment,” Jessi told those in attendance, concluding with references to the many of the messages that had been shared by the companies, organizations and institutions in attendance throughout the two days.
Jodie then brought the conference to its close by sharing the story of her own son’s battle with neuroblastoma and by thanking those in the room for the work they do, in particular for saving the life of her daughter’s best friend.
“You’ve given Emily the chance to make it to twelve, and you’ve given my daughter her best friend,” Jodie told the conference attendees. “It’s more than test tubes, it’s more that lab reports, it’s more than a marketing plea. It’s more than waiting on and then celebrating FDA approval of your efforts. You are giving people a chance at life when there was no chance. We are all here for the same purpose: to save lives.”
Both Nicole’s and Jessi and Jodie’s speeches can be viewed in full on our Facebook page.
Thank you to the CAR-TCR Summit for supporting the Emily Whitehead Foundation and inviting us to share our message at such an inspiring event!