An award ceremony in honor of the winners of our 2022 Jubilee Award was held in Basel on Monday, September 12. The Jubilee Award – marking the milestones of the 10-year-anniversary of Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research (RTFCCR) and the 30-year celebration of Swiss Cancer Research (SCR) – provides funding to support the creation of a patient-directed clinical trial. Worth CHF 800,000, the award was granted to PD Dr. med Elisabeth Artemis Kappos and her team from the University Hospital Basel (USB), for their research project on new treatment approaches for lymphedema in breast cancer.
The award ceremony – took place at the Basel Festsaal in Markgräflerhof – opened with a presentation of the meaning and mission of RTFCCR by Rising Tide CEO, Wendelin Zellmayer. “Our objective is to accelerate progress to improve the lives of people living with cancer today with a particular importance focused on patient involvement in research. When patients are involved, everyone benefits because it ensures clinical and medical research work is performed more effectively and advances the delivery of what patients really need,” explained Wendelin Zellmayer.
Dr. Peggy Janich, Managing Director of SCR highlighted the unique opportunity of bringing our two organizations together to focus on clinical trials in Switzerland. The scientific value of the winning project was well noted, by Prof. Dr. Beat Thürlimann, RTFCCR Board Deputy Chairman and SCR Representative for Clinical Research, confirming the strength of the trial design in addressing the research question.
The Jubilee Award Ceremony recognizes the work of Dr. Kappos and her team while reminding us of the importance of supporting patient involvement. “I highly appreciate the contribution of Prof. Katapodi to the trial design to include the patient’s perspective” says Dr. Kappos. She was honored at the award ceremony along with her team members, Prof. Maria Katapodi PhD and Dipl. Biol. Alexandra Schulz.
Patient experts are rarely involved as active members of the clinical team in cancer research. With RTFCCR celebrating its 10th anniversary and the SCR celebrating its 30th, both organizations issued a joint call for proposals aimed at supporting a research project with patient involvement. Patient-centered research projects, in which patient research advocates actively help shape the study and contribute their experience to the trial design, were eligible for the award. Patient-directed clinical trials involve the participation of patient research advocates in all phases of a study – from design to implementation and communication of the results – with the goal of making research questions more relevant and focused on those affected by cancer. According to RTFCCR Founder and Chairman, Shawn Stephenson, “This award will make a significant difference to cancer patients, while increasing awareness and showing the benefits of having patients involved at an early stage in clinical trial designs.”
Dr. Kappos, reconstructive surgeon at USB, was selected as the winner of the Jubilee Award for her research project aiming to improve the quality of life of women with breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL). The co-investigator, Prof. Maria Katapodi, is a professor of nursing at USB, as well as a breast cancer survivor and patient research advocate. “I am excited to work with Dr. Kappos to bring advanced treatment options to patients” says Prof. Katapodi. She actively contributed to the research question and design of the study and will be involved as a patient partner during the trial.
Up to 250 million people worldwide suffer from BCRL, a fluid accumulation in the tissue – particularly women who have had to undergo surgery or radiation on the lymph nodes because of breast cancer. Up to a quarter of women undergoing breast cancer therapy will develop BCRL, sometimes suffering for years with painful swelling and restricted quality of life. Existing therapies, like physical decongestion therapy, are time-consuming and only serve to relieve symptoms. The international research team led by Dr. Kappos demonstrates, through their study “Surgical versus conservative therapy for breast cancer related lymphoedema”, that lymphatic vessels can be reconnected to the lymphatic system of nearby veins to facilitate removal of the lymphatic fluid from the tissue. This microsurgical treatment is a sustainable solution to improve the quality of life of women affected.
The study – embedded in the “Oncoplastic Breast Consortium”, an international group of specialists and patient representatives who jointly identify research priorities in the field of breast cancer therapy and implement corresponding projects – is carried out in cooperation with multiple centers in Germany and abroad, including the Clinic for Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery; the Breast Center; the Department of Clinical Research; the Clinic for Angiology; and a strong group of patient representatives involved in USB. If successful, this patient-directed clinical trial has the potential to change the standard of care and improve the lives of cancer patients living with the permanent burden of lymphedema.