Aiming to both inspire the multiple myeloma community and raise money to accelerate treatments, members of Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma (MM4MM) recently traversed Iceland’s impressive landscape.
The 14-member excursion included two patients plus caregivers, family members, myeloma specialists, and individuals from organizing partners. The MM4MM initiative is a collaboration of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), CURE Media Group, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Since its start in 2016, the initiative has undertaken 13 expansive hikes and raised $2.5 million. Every dollar raised goes to MMRF research efforts.
“As a patient-founded organization, the MMRF stands together with those who are battling multiple myeloma — patients, families, physicians, researchers, and our pharmaceutical partners,” Paul Giusti, MMRF’s chief executive officer, said in a news release. “This team represents a microcosm of that myeloma community and demonstrates that together, we can collaborate with ever-increasing momentum toward a cure.”
In addition to mountains, the adventure included a mix of such natural features as hot springs, waterfalls, lava beds, geysers, glaciers, and gorges. The team also encountered geothermal activity — yellow and green sulfur emanating from trail rocks. Strenuous hiking was followed by rest at select mountain huts.
“This climb put on by Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma raises sufficient funds toward multiple myeloma research while also inspiring patients, survivors and caregivers,” said Michael J. Hennessy Jr., president of MJH Life Sciences, parent company of CURE Media Group.
Erik Ellefsen, who began treatment shortly after his 2008 diagnosis, was among the hikers. Ellefsen is now on his fifth maintenance therapy plan. The other patient was John Klatt. Before his 2016 diagnosis, Klatt attributed back pain to a pulled muscle, only to learn that the disease had progressed to 80 percent of his bone marrow, causing 10 compression fractures in his vertebrae. Now in remission after multiple procedures, he credits swift treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center with saving his life.
To date, 34 myeloma patients have taken part in seven MM4MM climbs.
“GSK, in partnership with the MMRF and CURE, is committed to advancing research into new and transformational treatment options to help improve the lives of people living with multiple myeloma,” said Tania Small, vice president, global medical oncology at GSK. “We are proud to be a part of the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma initiative and are inspired by all of the participants in the Iceland trek who are helping to increase awareness of this disease and the impact it has on patients and caregivers.”
The first MM4MM adventure was a Kilimanjaro climb, followed by expeditions like the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, and Mt. Fuji. Members took a trip to Mount Everest’s base camp in 2018. Future journeys include Mt. Washington and Patagonia.
Documented through social media and other platforms, the challenges seek to demonstrate that MMRF-funded and spearheaded treatment advances are helping patients live longer and better. To raise research funds, participants tap into their circle of friends and associates.
Founded in 1998, the nonprofit MMRF funds innovation that advances development of treatments to help patients live longer, with the ultimate goal of curing multiple myeloma. For more information on MMRF efforts, please click here.
Celgene joined GSK in supporting the MM4MM program this year.