News

New Pediatric Oncology Training Program Bridges the Gap for Kids in Africa

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
August 28, 2018

Dr. Joseph Lubega has big news — he’s bringing specialized pediatric cancer training to his home country of Uganda, thanks to his St. Baldrick’s International Scholar Grant and a partnership between Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. Read on for more about the pioneering program and why it will be a lifesaver for kids with cancer in the region.

EXCITING UPDATE: The first class of the East African Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship Program has officially graduated from the unique two-year program, which is the first of its kind in the region. “This is the most exciting point in my entire medical career,” said Dr. Joseph Lubega, a St. Baldrick’s International Scholar and leader of the fellowship program. “The realization that we have a critical mass of specialists to take care of children with cancer in this region of the world, and that they will train others going forward to infinitely multiply the specialist workforce — it is truly a momentous day.” The graduates are Drs. Barnabas Atwiine, Fadhil Geriga, Philip Kasirye, and Ruth Namazzi. Congratulations, grads!

Dr. Joseph Lubega speaks at the launch of the Uganda fellowship program

Dr. Lubega speaks at the launch of the fellowship program in Uganda earlier this month.

Lack of diagnosis, poor care, staggering drug costs, a deficit in specialized medical training for doctors — all of these factors make survival rare for a kid with cancer in Africa.

But St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Joseph Lubega hopes to change that with a pioneering program that will train a new wave of East African pediatricians in children’s oncology and hematology.

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Families

When a Child Dies of Cancer, What Should You Say? Here’s One Piece of Advice …

by Vicki Bunke
August 1, 2018

What should you say to someone whose loved one has died? Vicki Bunke has some simple advice that comes from heartbreaking experience — her 14-year-old daughter, Honored Kid Grace, died of bone cancer in March. Here’s what Vicki has to say …

Grace jumps into her mother's arms

Vicki’s daughter Grace grins and laughs in her mom’s arms. Grace was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when she was 11 years old and lost part of her leg to the disease. After her third relapse, she knew her disease was terminal but remained determined to experience everything life had to offer. Photo by Ashton Songer Photography

For 20 years, I have had the privilege of working as a school psychologist. I am honored to get up every morning and go to a job where I get to spend hour after hour interacting with young people. Sadly, this past spring, a young student who attended the high school where I work — and whom I loved dearly — died of osteosarcoma, a childhood bone cancer.

This student happened to be my 14-year-old daughter, Grace.

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Childhood Cancer

New St. Baldrick’s Researcher Aims to Give Kids With AT/RT Hope

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
July 27, 2018
Dr. Rintaro Hashizume

New St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Rintaro Hashizume in the lab at Northwestern University.

For a child diagnosed with an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor or AT/RT, the options for treatment can be sparse and survival uncertain. This rare, aggressive tumor generally strikes very young kids and though research has progressed, many of these kids live less than a year after diagnosis.

As the father of a kindergartener, this breaks Dr. Rintaro Hashizume’s heart.

Recently awarded a St. Baldrick’s Research grant, Dr. Hashizume wants to change that reality for kids with AT/RT and their families.

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Childhood Cancer

Introducing St. Baldrick’s Biggest Grants Release of 2018 [VIDEO]

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
July 19, 2018

Remember that check you wrote months ago to that foundation with the funny name? The donation bucket you hauled around the neighborhood? That epic shave? Now, all that hard work has paid off! Buckle your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen, because you funded childhood cancer research! Say hello to the newest grants of 2018 …

2018 grants

In our biggest grants cycle of 2018, St. Baldrick’s is awarding $19.1 million in funds to researchers and institutions dedicated to helping kids with cancer live long, healthy lives – and it’s thanks to your hard work!

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Real-Life Stories

Childhood Cancer Survivor Goes From Cancer Free to College Grad

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
July 17, 2018
collage of Sean during treatment and at graduation

(Left) Sean in treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. (Right) Sean with his mom, Marcia, and dad, Richard, during his graduation from Indiana University.

Honored Kid Sean Kligler graduated from college in May. The day was a tangle of emotions – happiness and sadness both.

“At graduation, I was happy — all those years of schooling finally paid off. I was able to get a college degree,” he said. “Of course, I was sad as well. I really enjoyed my time in college and I made some really good friends along the way.”

But there was another emotion mixed into that bittersweet day. It was gratitude. That’s because when Sean was 5 years old, he was diagnosed with childhood cancer. And when you have cancer, surviving to graduate college, or even attend college, is anything but guaranteed.

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Research

Researcher Targets Childhood Cancer With a Virus

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
July 11, 2018

Just mentioning herpes might make some people a little nervous, but in this story, herpes is the good guy. Read on for more about St. Baldrick’s Scholar Dr. Gregory Friedman’s work on a genetically altered version of the virus that could be the next targeted therapy for kids with brain tumors.

BREAKING NEWS: An innovative therapeutic tool developed by Dr. Friedman has proven to be safe in kids with high-grade gliomas, according to recently released clinical trial findings. Crafted from the herpes virus that causes cold sores, the genetically modified virus has already shown promise in killing cancer cells and stimulating the immune system to attack the brain tumor – with one patient still showing progress more than a year after treatment! In the next phase of research, Dr. Friedman will study how safe the viral tool is when combined with one low dose of radiation, which is expected to boost the immune system and help the virus replicate.

Dr. Friedman smiles with a young patient in an exam room

Dr. Friedman smiles with a young patient in an exam room at Children’s of Alabama.

St. Baldrick’s Scholar Dr. Gregory Friedman discovered that the herpes simplex virus, with a few modifications, will kill pediatric brain cancer cells — without causing cold sores.

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Advocacy

Teen Saved by Science Speaks Up for Kids’ Cancer Research

by Zach Swart
July 3, 2018

Back in April, Ambassador Zach was finally healthy enough after his bone marrow transplant to go out in public. What did he decide to do after that momentous milestone? He joined the hundreds of advocates speaking up for kids’ cancer research on Capitol Hill during Childhood Cancer Action Days. Here’s his recap of that trip and the big moments that have come since …

Ambassador Zach on Capitol Hill

Ambassador Zach poses for a photo in front of the United States Capitol building and its famous dome during Childhood Cancer Action Days in April.

I received a bone marrow transplant over a year ago, and I was so glad that I was healthy enough to speak on Capitol Hill this past April as a St. Baldrick’s ambassador. As an ambassador, I am a face and a voice for childhood cancer, and while in Washington, D.C., my family and I represented thousands of children and families who are affected by childhood cancer. I was lucky enough to share my story and talk about the importance of funding childhood cancer research through the STAR (the Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research) Act, the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever taken up by Congress. With the recent passage of the STAR Act, we have come so far, but we still have so far to go.

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Childhood Cancer

This New Tool Could Mean Better Health For Childhood Cancer Survivors

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
June 28, 2018

For childhood cancer survivors, treatment helps them to survive, but often that survival comes at a cost. But what are these costs? And how big is the problem? That’s what St. Baldrick’s Fellow Dr. Nickhill Bhakta wanted to figure out. And as it turns out, that data could be a lifesaver.

Dr. Nickhill Bhakta at his desk

St. Baldrick’s Fellow Dr. Nickhill Bhakta works at his desk in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. With a portion of the grant supported by the St. Baldrick’s Morgan and Friends Fund, he developed a special statistical tool to help capture the true volume and complexity of chronic health conditions faced by childhood cancer survivors because of the long-term consequences of their treatment — something that hadn’t been done before. Photos courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Over the years, researchers have discovered that because of their treatment, childhood cancer survivors can be at risk of everything from heart attacks to secondary cancers to stroke. That’s helpful to know, but Dr. Bhakta recognized that something was missing from the data that was available on survivorship. It wasn’t painting the complete picture. It was just capturing the first big health scare, instead of following the survivor through the multitude of chronic, often recurring conditions.

The scope simply wasn’t big enough.

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Real-Life Stories

What Is It Like to Be a Childhood Cancer Survivor? It’s Complicated.

by Zoe Enderle Wagner
June 25, 2018

Honored Kid Zoe was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when she was a teenager. Now, almost four years after finishing treatment and getting the news that the cancer was gone, Zoe is taking a look at what she’s learned during her cancer — and cancer-free — journey.

Zoe Wagner

Honored Kid Zoe Wagner is now 19 years old and has been cancer free for four years.

The anticipation of upcoming milestones and the overall exploratory nature of the teenage years make the age of 15 a common time to be naïve – and naive I was. Life was simple and my carefree spirit allowed me to believe it would always be that way. This trusting nature also led me to ignore the severity of the disease symptoms I was having for months. As these symptoms got worse, my uncomplicated mind created uncomplicated explanations for the way I was feeling. I told myself that I was always tired because I was a teenager, and that this exhaustion was the cause of my daily headaches. I blamed my newly heavy periods on ordinary hormonal changes, bruising on being clumsy, unusually pale skin on it simply not being sunny enough out, and weight loss on, well, it happens. It wasn’t until red needle-prick like dots appeared all over my legs that I requested to go to the doctor.

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Childhood Cancer

St. Baldrick’s Shines a Light on Childhood Cancer at Major Oncology Meeting

by Becky C. Weaver, Chief Mission Officer, St. Baldrick's Foundation
June 21, 2018

It’s a safe bet that when a group of prominent cancer researchers get together to share news about progress, researchers supported by St. Baldrick’s donors will be among them. This was true of the June 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the largest gathering of cancer professionals in the world. This year, St. Baldrick’s was a prominent part of this significant event. Read on to learn more …

Danielle speaks at ASCO

St. Baldrick’s Senior Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, Danielle Leach, speaks during the presentation of the Partners in Progress Award at the ASCO conference. Photo by © ASCO/Matt Herp 2018

An ASCO meeting is like a city within a city, with more than 32,000 professionals attending, from patient advocates to academic researchers to biotech movers and shakers.  Each year, the news announced at this meeting has far-reaching implications for the future of research, outcomes for patients, and even stock prices of companies involved in new advances.

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