Program for Thursday, October 2, 2008

David Pike is introducing a unique individual with a very exciting program at Gate City this Thursday. 

Excerpted form the Chordoma Foundation website:  "Josh Sommer is incoming executive director of the Chordoma Foundation.  The Chordoma Foundation was started in February, 2007 by Dr. Simone Sommer, and her son Josh, after he was diagnosed with a clival chordoma in 2006, during his freshman year of college. Since his diagnosis, Josh has worked in an oncology lab at Duke University to find his own cure.
  • Chordoma is a slow growing, relentless bone cancer that occurs in the head and spine in people of all ages. Chordoma is typically resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, and is prone to multiple recurrences. The average survival after diagnosis is 7 years. 
Josh believes that patients should play an active role in bringing about treatments for their own conditions, and that patients represent a largely untapped source of funding, energy, and know-how in the treatment development process.
Josh was a freshman at Duke University studying environmental engineering when he was diagnosed with chordoma. Soon after his diagnosis, Josh joined the lab of Dr. Michael Kelley, a Duke oncologist studying the genetic basis of chordoma, and the only federally-funded chordoma researcher. His research in Dr. Kelley’s lab included cell line characterization, gene-expression microarray analysis, candidate gene knockdown using RNA interference, and in vitro drug screening. To support his work in the lab, Josh switched majors to a self-designed bioengineering curriculum focused on modeling and solving biological “problems” that lead to disease.

After finishing his junior year in May, 2008 Josh was awarded a two-year Echoing Green fellowship for social entrepreneurs, and subsequently has taken a leave of absence from Duke to lead the Chordoma Foundation as full-time executive director. To complement his work for the Chordoma Foundation, Josh has joined Duke’s Program on Global Health and Technology Access as a Fellow in Strategic Philanthropy and Health. In addition, Josh continues to lead research projects in Dr. Kelley’s lab, and helps coordinate collaborations with research labs in eight countries.
In school Josh received numerous honors and awards including the USA Today All-USA Academic First Team Award, Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Coca-Cola Scholarship, and AXA Achievement National Award."  
The website features a different Profile in Courage each month -
  •  As everyone whose life has been affected by chordoma knows, it is a challenging, confusing, lonely, and often frightening disease. It is a disease that has, until recently, received little public attention, and was barely known to the public and to the research community. We hope that these candid stories of courageous patients and their families will shed light on what it means to live with, survive, fight against, or die from this disease. This is the human side of the cancer called chordoma.
For further reading, check out chordoma in Wikipedia. 

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