When Tina Cancio was diagnosed with LGL Leukemia (LGLL), she wasted no time in looking for information. She “scoured the Internet,” only to find very little there—and most was outdated or written in dense medical language. Then she found Tom Loughran, Jr., MD, director of UVA Cancer Center. Loughran discovered LGL Leukemia and sees LGLL patients from around the world. In Loughran, Cancio found the resource she needed and a partner in reaching out to other patients. Since then, Cancio has raised thousands of dollars to support LGLL research and to give patients the answers they need.
“I realized that, although this is a rare leukemia, others like me were also looking for LGLL information,” says Cancio. “Initially, I created my own foundation as a resource for patients and caregivers. Now, they can go directly to UVA for information and to learn about the latest research being done by Dr. Loughran and his team.”
Each year, about 1,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with LGL Leukemia, a chronic condition in which a person’s white blood cells clone themselves and multiply, attacking the bone marrow and joints. Loughran’s research team is focused on identifying the genetic changes that drive the development and persistence of LGLL and identifying new therapeutic targets for treatments and possibly a cure for the disease.
To continue supporting this work, Cancio has created the LGL Leukemia Research Fund—an online giving page that allows others to support groundbreaking LGLL research at UVA.
“It is my greatest hope that, through our online community and this giving page, we are able to leverage the voices of the patient community and caregivers to raise funds,” says Cancio. “This will support Dr. Loughran's efforts to help LGLL patients live a better quality of life and perhaps find a cure. Research is not free; it takes great amounts of funding. Without it, medical and scientific breakthroughs would not be possible. This new UVA LGLL fundraising page allows all of us to help with that potential LGLL cure. Together we are STRONG!”
Cancio also encourages patients to join the UVA-based and first-of-its-kind national LGL Leukemia Registry. The registry includes the world’s largest collection of clinical samples and LGLL patient data and contributes vastly to the quality and pace of LGLL discovery. Together with LGLL patient and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Lane Bess, Cancio has worked to raise awareness about LGLL and bring more patients to the registry. Bess and his wife, Letty, have provided significant support for the registry and for Loughran’s research through their family charitable fund. That generous funding, along with Cancio’s advocacy efforts, have helped to realize a shared vision of providing vital resources for both patients and researchers.
“Without the registry, Dr. Loughran and others would not be able to study and compare patients’ lab work, which is desperately needed in any important medical or scientific breakthrough,” says Cancio. “I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of such great discovery—not only to help myself, but to help others as well.”