Earth, Wind & Fire, Jennifer Hudson to perform at gala for multiple myeloma

The 15th anniversary of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s (MMRF’s) fall gala promises to be a star-studded evening on Saturday night, Oct. 27, with a tribute concert celebrating Clive Davis and performances by Jennifer Hudson, Earth, Wind & Fire and Jermaine Paul.

The event, which will be at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich with a cocktail reception beginning at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7:30, serves as a fund-raiser to support the development of life-extending treatments for multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

“The MMRF really has its roots in this Greenwich gala,” according to Amy Rochlin, MMRF consultant and organizer of the event.

The organization was founded in 1998 after co-founder Kathy Giusti was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 37, Ms. Rochlin said. Along with her twin sister, Greenwich resident Karen Andrews, Ms. Giusti established the MMRF with the principle focus of funding research for the development of progressive, life-extending treatments and held the organization’s first gala in Greenwich, which has since become a tradition.

At the time of her diagnosis in 1996, “there were virtually no treatments on the landscape” for multiple myeloma, Ms. Rochlin said. The life expectancy rate of those battling the rare form of cancer was approximately three years and research investment in the disease was severely limited.

Ms. Giusti, however, was not about to go down without a fight and her disease is now in remission.

Since her diagnosis, using her degree from Harvard Business School and experience as a pharmaceutical executive, Ms. Giusti has led what has become one of the leading cancer research organizations in the nation, Ms. Rochlin said.

“The success of MMRF is extraordinary,” she said.

Since its inception, the organization has helped bring five new myeloma drugs, which are also being used and tested with 30 other forms of cancer, to market in less than 10 years.

And what started as a fund-raising event for Ms. Giusti’s pharmaceutical and business associates has become Fairfield County’s largest fund-raising benefit, Ms. Rochlin said. With 1,300 attendees expected at this year’s affair, she said, the fall gala, which has traditionally been held here in town, will be bigger than ever.

The event will honor Grammy Award winner and noted music industry executive Clive Davis with the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, presented annually to individuals who inspire hope with their perseverance in overcoming personal obstacles.

According to Ms. Rochlin, Mr. Davis has a number of connections with MMRF as both a friend of board of directors member and multiple myeloma patient Michael Reinert and a major supporter of the battle against orphan cancers. After hearing of MMRF’s mission and success, “he was fully on board to support us,” she said.

After securing Mr. Davis for the gala, event organizers were able to book Grammy Award winners Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind & Fire to perform in the tribute concert to the music industry icon, as both acts were signed to record labels by Mr. Davis, she said. Jermaine Paul, winner of the second season of NBC’s The Voice and a notable performer on Alicia Keys’ album The Diary of Alicia Keys, released by Mr. Davis’s J Records, was also added to the roster.

“I am proud to participate in this tribute concert for Clive Davis to benefit the MMRF — an organization that has helped so many patients and families affected by this devastating cancer,” Ms. Hudson said in an event press release. “I hope my involvement will help the MMRF in their role of bringing new treatments and hope to cancer patients worldwide.”

In addition to the tribute concert, the MMRF’s fall gala will feature the presentation of the MMRF Corporate Leadership Award to N. Anthony Coles MD, president and CEO of Onyx Pharmaceuticals.

The MMRF partnered with Onyx to develop a novel multiple myeloma drug known as Kyprolis, which was approved by the FDA in July, prompting the foundation to honor the pharmaceutical company’s leader for the achievement.

The fall gala raises more than $2 million each year to fund critical trials and advanced treatments in the study of multiple myeloma, but at the same time, “it builds much-needed awareness around a small and rare disease,” Ms. Rochlin said. “In many ways, the size and scale of the event is commensurate with the success MMRF has had in research.”

Despite advancements made by MMRF, however, 20,000 adults are diagnosed with the disease each year and 11,000 of them will die, she said. Though the foundation has more than doubled the life expectancy rate of those with the disease from three years to seven years, the survival rate of those with multiple myeloma is one of the lowest of all cancers and the disease remains incurable.

Nevertheless, the MMRF has raised more than $200 million since its inception and anticipates Saturday’s gala to be the “greatest success yet to date,” Ms. Rochlin said. “We only anticipate it getting larger and stronger as far as broadening our reach in the world,” she added. “And from a musical standpoint, we are so fortunate to have talented musicians align with the cause.”

To reserve a table for the MMRF fall gala, donate an auction item or inquire about sponsorship opportunities, email [email protected] or call 888-584-5463.

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