On November 12, 2005, the International Myeloma Foundation celebrated its 15 years of service to the myeloma community. The IMF’s annual gala has been an important and successful fund-raising event for the Foundation, generating funds for essential myeloma research and other programs that serve the myeloma community. This year’s Hollywood-style event took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, home of the Golden Globes.
The IMF Galas are fun affairs and this year was no exception. The evening started with a cocktail reception and silent auction, situated in a suite above the flickering lights of Beverly Hills. It was a thrill to mingle with friends, see old acquaintances renew their friendships, and to observe new friendships being formed. However, the socializing did not impede the competitive bidding for the many attractive auction items!
The evening continued as guests filed into the gorgeous ballroom, elegantly decorated for the occasion. The sounds of the Melanie Taylor Group provided a cheerful musical background that beautifully enhanced the atmosphere and spirit of the evening. It is a testament to the IMF that it can fill the cavernous ballroom of the Beverly Hilton with enough people to lend an air of intimacy, as you bump into friends left and right. Three hundred and fifty guests—clinicians, researchers, myeloma patients, caregivers, family, and friends—gathered this evening to celebrate the IMF and its honorees and to support the fight against myeloma.
Once again, Robin Leach returned as the IMF Master of Ceremonies. This was Mr. Leach’s fifth appearance at the IMF annual gala! Mr. Leach is a true friend of the IMF, continuing his work on behalf of the myeloma community in memory of his friend Brian Troop.
Susie Novis took the podium to extend a warm welcome to the guests. She reflected on the endeavors of the IMF over the past year and updated the audience on the goals that lie ahead. Over the last 15 years, the IMF has become the premier resource for information about myeloma, and has brought empowerment, support, and kinship to the myeloma community.
Next, Drs. Brian Van Ness and Brian Durie spoke of the promise of the IMF’s Bank On A Cure® initiative, the first myeloma-specific DNA bank in history. The evening progressed to the award presentations. This year’s award recipients were Dr. David Agus and the Affymetrix Corporation.
The IMF honored Dr. David Agus, a nationally prominent researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, for his cutting edge research to help determine which patients respond best to treatments for cancer. Dr. Agus was introduced, via video, by Desperate Housewives’ Teri Hatcher. Ms. Hatcher related a few humorous anecdotes of her friendship with Dr. Agus and his wife, Amy, which allowed the audience a better understanding of the man inside the lab coat. She also shared her first-hand knowledge of Dr. Agus’ compassion and commitment to helping his patients live longer and better lives.
Dr. Agus was honored with the Quality of Life Award for his research focused on understanding the biology of cancer and the development of new drugs and treatments for prostate cancer. He is also using new technologies, such as gene chips and proteomics, which will reveal valuable information and ultimately a more complete understanding of the various factors that influence cancer development, progression and response to treatment. By using some of the world's most powerful superconducting magnets to separate the proteins in a drop of blood, Dr. Agus is engaged in a breakthrough study to help determine which myeloma patients are best able to benefit from bone marrow transplants, a mainstay of myeloma treatment. The data Dr. Agus is able to retrieve from a single droplet of blood is so vast that a bank of super computers is employed to help analyze the results. "Others look at cancer and ask why, but I look at my patients and ask who -- who will benefit, whom can we help," said Dr. Agus.
The Affymetrix Corporation was honored with the Science & Technology Award for developing "gene chips" that aid in studying the role of genes and their components by holding vast amounts of biological data on a small glass slide. Affymetrix is a pioneer in creating breakthrough tools for genomic research, and its technology has become the industry standard in molecular biology research. By applying the principles of semiconductor technology to the life sciences, Affymetrix developed and commercialized systems that enable scientists to improve quality of life. These machines produced by Affymetrix are the cornerstone of the IMF’s Bank On A Cure program, providing the tools to process myeloma patients’ DNA. Thank you, Affymetrix, for helping move our understanding of myeloma forward!
Another highlight of the evening was the much-anticipated live auction conducted by Robin Leach and Viveca Paulin. Mr. Leach encouraged guests to bid on everything from exotic getaways to adorable puppies. The highest selling items generated some friendly rivalries among the bidders.
The IMF Gala also featured special guest entertainer Robert Klein—actor, comedian, director, composer, author, and Tony-nominated musical theater performer—who quickly had the crowd in stitches with his opening number, a song entitled “My Colonoscopy.” By the end of the song, many audience members had joined in singing the chorus, and there were even a few lighters held high in the air. And that was just the beginning! Renowned for his unique brand of observational humor, Mr. Klein kept the crowd entertained by his musings and musical numbers.
Our heartfelt thanks to the many generous event sponsors and auction donors who have made this memorable evening possible, to the members of the dinner committee for their time and dedication, and to our extended myeloma family for making the IMF’s 15th Anniversary Gala such a stellar success.