Childhood Cancer Research Priorities
The St. Baldrick's Foundation works with leaders in the childhood cancer research community to determine the most important research to fund. More than 100 pediatric oncologists review grant applications and give strategic advice. The Foundation first held its first Research Priorities Summit in 2010 and its second Research Priorities Summit in 2012, with the country's leading pediatric oncology researchers participating to advise the staff and board of directors on funding priorities.
Current funding priorities are divided into four categories and three focus areas:
- Clinical Trials and Infrastructure
- The rapid progress in finding cures for childhood cancers over the last 40 years was made possible because most children with cancer are treated on a clinical trial. On a Phase III trial (our focus), patients are getting either the best treatment known or a treatment that has been tested extensively and is hoped to offer a better outcome.
- Education of New Pediatric Oncology Researchers
- A pediatric oncology Fellow spends one year primarily working with patients, followed by two years or more of research. St. Baldrick's Fellows receive funding for these research years. Some require additional training for such sub-specialties as pediatric neuro-oncology or stem cell transplantation.
- The years immediately following a fellowship are crucial, as funding is increasingly scarce and without it, a new researcher's career can be be cut short. St. Baldrick's Scholar awards help keep new researchers focused on finding cures, while they gain the experience needed to apply for future grants.
- To attract more of the best and brightest to the field of pediatric oncology, the St. Baldrick's Foundation also offers Summer Fellowships for medical students to work for a summer in a laboratory on a research project.
- Translational Research
- This type of research is often called "bench to bedside" - taking what is learned in the laboratory and translating it into direct benefits for patients. It is funded by the St. Baldrick's Foundation in the form of research grants, as well as some of the research of St. Baldrick's Fellows or Scholars.
- New Discovery Research
- Research in areas of new discovery includes the sequencing of genes, genetic epidemiology, pharmacogenetic studies and more. This type of research relies upon scientists having access to tissue samples and detailed data from patients (collected during clinical trials). This kind of work is also funded by the St. Baldrick's Foundation in the form of research grants, as well as some of the research of St. Baldrick's Fellows or Scholars.
- Adolescents & Young Adults
- Without making a single new discovery, 30% more teens with cancer could be cured with one simple change: they need to be treated by pediatric oncologists. Because families, patients and often doctors do not realize the profound difference this makes in survival rates, too many are treated by medical oncologists without access to pediatric cancer protocols.
- Progress in curing adolescents and young adults with childhood cancers is lagging far behind the progress made in treating younger children. As a result of the summit, the St. Baldrick's Foundation places high importance on research to bring more hope to adolescents and young adults fighting cancer.
- Many patients who survive childhood cancer will die later of either relapsed disease or a medical problem directly caused by the therapies that cured them. Over 30% of survivors have a serious medical condition or disability as a direct result of their treatments.
- The St. Baldrick's Foundation has always funded grants that address these issues and will continue to do so. This research includes both prevention (reducing late effects by changing current therapies) and intervention (treating patients who already have late effects).
- Supportive Care Research
- More research is needed on symptom management, quality of life issues, family coping skills, compliance with therapy, and other areas of supportive care for childhood cancer patients. Fortunately, there is a growing number of nurses with Ph.D.'s who are focused on this research. This is one of the newest categories of funding for the Foundation and came as a direct result of the St. Baldrick's Research Priorities Summit.