Cush it to the Limit focuses our investments on research into rare lymphomas and blood cancers, specifically t-cell lymphoma (TCL). Blood cancers alone are inherently rare, accounting for around 10% of yearly cancer diagnoses. T-cell lymphoma is rarer still, making up less than 15% of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases, or around 10,000 cases each year. This makes T-Cell Lymphoma one of the rarest subgroups of cancer, and therefore a disease that is often overlooked in research funding. The specific form of TCL that took the life of our founder, Ben Cushing (Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma-- HSTCL) carries even scarier statistics. There are typically 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, particularly when the typical patient is a young, adult male.
Why is T-Cell Lymphoma so aggressive?
In a healthy human body, T-Cells are one of your adaptive immune system’s most relied upon lines of defense. They are your body's law enforcement, responsible for tracking down infected cells and regulating your immune response.
T-Cell Lymphoma is a disease that turns these regulators against the host, in a sort of biological coup d’état. 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. Our mission remains the same as it was the day we were founded 6 years ago, to find a cure for T-Cell Lymphoma and other rare blood cancers.
Where your CITTL donation goes.
When Ben was diagnosed, he learned that T-Cell Lymphomas were some of the most under researched cancers. He and his parents, Alison and Scott Cushing were grateful to discover that Andrei Shustov, one of the most experienced hematologists in t-cell malignancies, was in our own Seattle, Washington backyard. Throughout his career, Dr. Shustov has led global studies of new drugs that resulted in new treatments for patients for whom standard therapies failed. Once Ben began treatment with Dr. Andrei Shustov, it was clear Shustov’s 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. We quickly developed a partnership with the Hutch to fund innovative research in TCL malignancies and have to date funded two studies: one that examined possible viral origins for HSTCL and a second that enabled the creation of a high-level genomic research platform for understanding the origins of T-cell lymphomas. The goal of this latter study was to reveal the unique characteristics of malignancies that will be critical to developing better treatment strategies. We are currently honored to support a bi-annual research grant at the Hutch focused on innovative hematological malignancy research into T-cell lymphomas and closely related malignancies. Possible grant recipients may include the studies of rare blood cancers or rare blood cancer subtypes, T cell activation or transformation, JAK-STAT signaling or chromosome 7 abnormities all of which are common in hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma, and hematological malignancy in young adults.
After 15 years in the Division of Hematology, and professor of Medicine at UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Dr. Shustov is now approaching cancers from a different lens. In February 2023 he became Senior Vice President, Medical at Cellectar Biosciences where he will lead and provide oversight on all aspects of the Company’s clinical development program, medical affairs, and medical communications. In 2022, he joined our organization as Scientific Advisor and member of the board. 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.