Second year BellRinger Rider Dr. Gary Kupfer is a dedicated and accomplished researcher in the field of pediatric hematology-oncology at Georgetown Lombardi. He has made significant strides in understanding the complexities of rare diseases in children and their connections to adult cancers. His journey into the world of medical research and oncology began during his undergraduate years when he worked in a cancer biology lab. He discovered his passion for both science and caring for patients, especially young people. Dr. Kupfer realized that pursuing academic medicine would allow him to combine his interests — a perfect fit for his wide-ranging curiosity.
Dr. Kupfer special interest is a rare genetic disease known as Fanconi anemia, which affects about 1,000 patients worldwide. This disease leads to bone marrow failure and eventually leukemia and other cancers. Dr. Kupfer and his colleagues noticed an interesting correlation. The genetic mutations that cause Fanconi anemia also show up in tumors for some patients with breast and other adult cancers even though these patients didn’t have Fanconi anemia.These unexpected connections between Fanconi anemia and adult cancers, intrigued Dr. Kupfer and led him to explore the genetic basis underlying these associations.
The genetic models provided by rare diseases often offer a unique opportunity to study the underlying biology and genetics of cancer. Dr. Kupfer’s work is translational, continuously seeking to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical trials – translating findings in the lab to human treatment and vice versa. Dr. Kupfer’s research involves testing therapies to identify effective treatments for head and neck cancer and breast cancer, among others. By studying the altered biology resulting from specific genetic mutations, his team aims to find ways to exploit these vulnerabilities for improved therapies.
The collaborative nature of Dr. Kupfer’s research has been vital to its success. Working in conjunction with oncology physicians who treat adult cancers, he has found a unique platform to adapt the knowledge gained from Fanconi anemia to advance a variety of cancer therapies. The partnership between pediatric and adult oncologists allows for a more comprehensive approach, sharing insights and breakthroughs across different areas of expertise.
While the journey towards improved cancer treatments is promising, Dr. Kupfer acknowledges the challenges that accompany his work. Securing sufficient resources and funding is a constant struggle, with valuable time spent seeking grants. But according to Dr. Kupfer, BellRinger is helping to do the research now.
The continued growth of Georgetown Lombardi’s impact really depends on the community coming together through BellRinger to end cancer.
dr. gary kupfer, 50-mile Rider
In 2022, Dr. Kupfer rode 50-miles in BellRinger’s Inaugural Ride. The Ride surpassed his expectations, showcasing the remarkable energy and passion of the Riders and volunteers as they united against cancer. Dr. Kupfer saw firsthand that BellRinger’s impact extends far beyond fundraising.The sense of community and collaboration that the Ride fosters aligns perfectly with the spirit of cancer research and Georgetown Lombardi’s mission. Dr. Kupfer will be banding together with the rest of the community this fall as he takes on the 50-mile route.
As a pioneer in the field of pediatric hematology-oncology, Dr. Kupfer’s work exemplifies the power of bridging disciplines and making connections. His dedication to understanding rare diseases and their implications for adult cancers has the potential to revolutionize cancer therapy and improve patient outcomes. With the support of initiatives like BellRinger, Georgetown Lombardi is poised to make a lasting impact in the pursuit to end cancer, and Dr. Kupfer is just getting started.