Patients are Waiting!

Patients are Waiting!

Photo credit: Janet Donovan

“When Suzanne was diagnosed, we were shocked,” said Bob Wright. “There are no screening tests for pancreatic cancer, so the disease went undetected until it metastasized. In the nine months that followed, we were stunned by the limited effective treatment options and very few clinical trials available to Suzanne and the thousands of other patients diagnosed every year. Pancreatic cancer is the only cancer that has not improved its survival rate since the United States declared ‘The War on Cancer’ forty years ago. Ninety-two percent of pancreatic patients die, and seventy-one percent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis. We will leverage every resource in the cancer community so future patients won’t be up against the same odds Suzanne faced.”

Bob Wright established The Suzanne Wright Foundation in honor of his late wife Suzanne who died from pancreatic cancer in 2016. CodePurple is a Suzanne Wright Foundation initiative to drive urgency and action in the fight against pancreatic cancer. “Pancreatic cancer is an emergency that requires an innovative, focused approach,” he said. “That is why we advocate for HARPA, a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency, to build life-saving capabilities for diseases that have not benefited from the current system.”

Bob Wright

Bob Wright, former Vice Chairman of General Electric, Chairman of NBC Universal and co-founder of Autism Speaks with his late wife Suzanne, is now taking action in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Wright announced the launch of its CodePurple campaign — an initiative dedicated to increasing and accelerating pancreatic cancer research through awareness.  Friends and colleagues gathered at the Mansfield Senate Office building of the Capital Visitors center for a private screening of “The Patients Are Waiting.”

“The improvement in survival rates for breast, colon, prostate and other cancers demonstrates how the power of awareness and focused funding can drive research and save lives,” said Liz Feld, President of The Suzanne Wright Foundation. “CodePurple will give voice to the over one million families who have lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer in the last twenty years.”

“I have worked with Bob Wright for the last seven or eight years on the issues that we all heard him talk about earlier,” Feld added. “We’re advocating for HARPA because we have the urgency in this country. We have billions of dollars of research that can be funded by all of us in this room and people all over this country that is sitting in medical journals and in labs that is just not getting to patients. This is real life stuff that is happening right now in front of us. We have got resources to fix the problem.”

Liz Feld

“This last year Bob and I came down here to lobby for pancreatic cancer.” Feld went on to explain that we should do it the DARPA way. “DARPA’s an amazing model and everywhere we went everyone said the same thing. We talked to people all over the country – Dana-Farber, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, major capital companies, bio-tech companies, who all told us the same thing. They told us what we knew, but they said we need leadership and we need urgency and we need results. We’ve got to stop measuring success by how many papers you publish and how much we know and start measuring success-fullness by what we do. In our case, the doing is saving lives. So we started advocating for HARPA which follows the DARPA model and the HARPA model. HARPA folks are here today because it works. It holds people accountable and delivers results. So we are here to show this film. The film (The Patient is Waiting) makes the case. You’ll see these people in this film are the best of the best and our goal is to develop capabilities for patients the same way we’ve already developed capabilities for national security. We can do this and HARPA is a way to do this.”

Bob Wright

“I want to say a couple of things,” said Wright.  “There’s no worthwhile therapies. There’s no cure. The only way is through working inside of the government with existing resources and existing people. If we try to do this on a personal & private basis even if we were well funded, the reality is we would not be able to get access to information that the government has. We would not be able to get access to data at the NIH or the CDC or the FDA without a lot of red tape. It would be forever trying to get that. DARPA has the ability to bypass all of that. DARPA would be able to be able to access all NIH data, CDC, FDA, et cetera, with ease as they do right now in other things. The message has got to get out and it’s got to get out to younger people and/or older people. The good news is, like autism, we did develop early on detection programs. We did develop and publicize treatments that do work. We know that we can’t cure autism, but we can make life enormously better off for families with autism and children as they grow up. I can’t do that with pancreatic cancer. There’s no way to do that. There are these different issues and yet, we can do this. It’s the largest collection of genetic material from any disease or condition and it’s up on the cloud now and we allow people to come, researchers. It’s a generation’s worth of time. We could do things like that with other diseases and other conditions.”

Susan Wright and Aniko Gaal Schott

“One more comment: Less than two years ago, 82,000 people have died of pancreatic cancer in the United States.”