Long Island groups raise funds to support local cancer researcher Raffaella Sordella, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. – Raffaella Sordella, Ph.D., a cancer researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), has been presented with two checks totaling $10,000 in support of her work. The donations, each in the amount of $5,000, were made by New York State Order Sons of Italy in America (NYSOSIA) and Breast Cancer Help, Inc.

Raffaella Sordella, Ph.D.

“I would like to thank the Sons of Italy and Breast Cancer Help for their support,” Sordella said. “We share the goal of achieving major clinical victories over cancer.  Those victories can only be won if we understand in greater detail how cancer works.  In my lab we are especially interested in how lung cancer cells develop resistance to anticancer drugs—knowledge that we hope will enable us to outsmart tumors.”

A ceremonial presentation was held on April 9, 2009 on the CSHL campus. Attendees included: NYSOSIA State President Nancy Quinn; Long Island NYSOSIA representatives Janet Rodgers and Michelina Cangemi; Breast Cancer Help Executive Director Alex Fezza; and representatives of CSHL, including Charlie Prizzi, Vice President of Development.

“We are delighted to make this presentation,” said Quinn.  “We hope that you (Sordella) do a lot with this so that people with cancer can get better.”

Sordella, an assistant professor at CSHL, conducts research on mechanisms of drug resistance in non-small cell lung cancer (NCSLC). As a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, she was involved in the discovery of new mutations in a gene called EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) that plays an important role in NSCLC, and was a member of the team that demonstrated that patients with specific EGFR mutations are more sensitive to the targeted therapies Iressa and Tarceva than are patients without these mutations. This discovery has had a significant impact on the treatment of patients with lung cancer, and has generated new interest in personalized cancer therapies.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung and breast cancer are the two leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women.  This is a statistic that cancer scientists at CSHL are working to change.  The Laboratory has been a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center since 1987.

“Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a world-renowned research institution, with a focus not only on cancer, but also on neuroscience, bioinformatics and genomics, plant genetics, and quantitative biology,” said Prizzi, “The groundbreaking work that is happening here would not be possible without the support of local groups like Breast Cancer Help and the Sons of Italy.”

Prizzi concluded by noting that Dr. Sordella was raised and received much of her education in Italy, and “is one of our shining stars and is making important progress in understanding how patients respond to cancer therapies.”

In addition to being honored by the Sons of Italy and Breast Cancer Help, Sordella has received honors and awards from the Joan’s Legacy Foundation, the Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Foundation, the V Foundation, and the Massachusetts Biomedical Research Corporation.  Sordella received her Ph.D., from the University of Turin, Torino, Italy.

The Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) is the largest and longest-established national organization for men and women of Italian heritage in the United States. It was established in 1905 as a mutual aid society for the early Italian immigrants. Today OSIA has more than 600,000 members and supporters.  It has a network of more than 700 chapters coast to coast, making it the leading service and advocacy organization for the nation's estimated 26 million people of Italian descent. OSIA's mission is to encourage the study of Italian language and culture in American schools and universities; preserve Italian American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and promote closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy. OSIA is a private, philanthropic institution.

Breast Cancer Help, Inc., is an organization with a focus on action and advocacy to eradicate breast cancer. Its founding president, Lorraine Pace, is a nationally known breast cancer survivor. Breast Cancer Help has built a grassroots network of advocates across America and abroad, focusing on the goals of increasing research into the cause, treatment, and cure of breast cancer; improving access for all women to high-quality breast cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment; and encouraging other areas in the United States and throughout the world to conduct mapping surveys to help better understand the relationship between our environment and breast cancer.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research and education institution at the forefront of efforts in molecular biology and genetics to generate knowledge that will yield better diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurological diseases and other major causes of human suffering.

Upcoming Sordella speaking event

On June 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm in the Grace Auditorium at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Dr. Sordella will take part in a symposium titled, “New Cancer Therapies in the Age of the Personalized Genome.” The symposium is co-sponsored by St. Johnland Nursing Center, North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, and Cold Spring Harbor LaboratoryFor more information, visit www.cshl.edu.