Executive Director of TargetCancer Talks Cholangiocarcinoma

Jim Palma

Jim Palma is the executive director of TargetCancer Foundation.

Since joining the nonprofit in 2010, Jim has overseen its transformation from a start-up organization into a foundation that is nationally recognized for its support of comprehensive rare cancer research programs and patient support services.

In January 2017, Palma was named to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). In this video, he sits down with Rare Disease Report to discuss cholangiocarcinoma, the disease with which Paul Poth, his brother-in-law and the founder of TargetCancer, was diagnosed.

Palma: Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer of the bile ducts and the liver. It’s something that’s typically diagnosed at a late stage; it doesn’t present early at all, and it has a poor prognosis. Actually, my brother-in-law, who founded TargetCancer Foundation, had cholangiocarcinoma, and what he encountered was very similar to what patients in a lot of cases 8 years later still encounter, which is just being told that there is a lack of treatments available for them and a lack of research.

The current treatment landscape is a chemotherapy standard of care, which is given to most patients. What’s encouraging and what’s been changing is that there are many trials that are coming out for cholangiocarcinoma based on mutations that have been found to be present in the disease. So, while the treatment landscape and the standard of care remains the same today, there is a lot of activity and a lot of hope on the horizon based on the fact that these mutations have been identified and companies are starting to identify, or see, the value in developing drugs and putting them into clinical trials that patients can now access. As a foundation working with patients, we’re seeing people get into these trials and, in some cases, finding success.

To have a new drug approval specifically for a targeted mutation in a rare cancer like cholangiocarcinoma is a huge step forward and I think would be a real sign to the community that there’s value in developing drugs for rare cancers.
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