Blood cancers alone are inherently rare, accounting for around 10% of yearly cancer diagnosis. T-cell lymphomas are rarer still, making up less than 15% of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases, or around 10,000 cases each year. This makes T-Cell Lymphomas one of the rarest subgroups of cancer, and therefore a disease that is often overlooked in research funding. As you get into the particulars of the disease that took the life of our founder, Ben Cushing, the statistics get even more shocking. Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma (HSTCL) will have less than 100 cases in any given year, with a five-year-survival-rate of around 25%. It is a grim diagnosis whose outcome we are fighting to improve.

 

Why is T-Cell Lymphomas so aggressive?

In a healthy human body, your T-Cells are one of your adaptive immune system’s most relied upon lines of defense. They are essentially your body's law enforcement, as they are responsible for tracking down infected cells and regulating your immune response.

A T-Cell Lymphoma is a disease that turns these regulators against the host, in a sort of biological coup d’état. So not only do the t-cells stop doing their job, but they actually begin attacking the host’s remaining healthy cells. Ben’s disease, Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma, was an especially aggressive strain that develops in the spleen and bone marrow. As of today, there is no known cure for the disease. But Ben’s mission was clear from the start, he wanted to make sure that the next kid with a similar bleak diagnosis would have more targeted treatment options than he had. So, our mission remains the same as it was the day we were founded, to find a cure for T-Cell Lymphomas and other rare blood cancers

 

Where your to CITTL donation goes.

When Ben was diagnosed, he learned that T-Cell Lymphomas were some of the most under researched cancers. We were grateful to discover that one of the most experienced doctors in t-cell malignancies was in our own backyard and available to treat Ben. Once Ben began treatment with Dr. Andrei Shustov, it was clear his ideas for expanding research into groundbreaking territories was something we wanted to support. We knew it wouldn’t save Ben, but it was a logical choice for CITTL to partner with Dr. Shustov, UW Medicine, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to break new barriers in T-Cell Lymphoma research.

After many years at UW and the Hutch, Dr. Shustov is now approaching cancers from a different lens. In 2021, he joined SeaGen, a global biotechnology company dedicated to developing revolutionary cancer therapies; and in 2022, he joined our organization as Scientific Advisor. Throughout his career, Dr. Shustov has led global studies of new drugs that resulted in new treatments for patients for whom standard therapies failed. We are grateful to have Dr. Shustov’s guidance as we continue our partnership with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to fund cutting edge research in rare blood cancers. Currently, CITTL is supporting the creation of a high-level genomic research platform for understanding the origins of T-cell lymphomas. The goal of this study is to reveal the unique characteristics of malignancies that will be critical to developing better treatment strategies