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 …
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
For some kids with cancer, getting a bone marrow transplant can be a blessing, but for others it can be a curse. That’s because of a complication called Graft-Versus-Host Disease or GVHD, which not only causes immense suffering — it can also be fatal. Enter Dr. Melissa Mavers, a St. Baldrick’s Fellow who aims to stop GVHD in its tracks and help kids with cancer live long, healthy lives after transplant.
Dr. Melissa Mavers works in the lab at Stanford University Hospital. A St. Baldrick’s Fellow, Dr. Mavers is an instructor of pediatrics in the Division of Stem Cell Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University.
For a kid with cancer and their family, a bone marrow transplant can mean a clean slate and a new beginning. But it’s not easy. The procedure involves intense, high-dose chemotherapy and sometimes radiation, which wipes out the kid’s bone marrow cells and immune system. This forces them to remain in isolation at the hospital, so they don’t get sick.
“The destroyed cells are then replaced with cells from a donor to not only help rebuild their defense systems and their ability to make blood but also to fight any last cancer cells that remain,” explained Dr. Mavers.
For kids diagnosed with a rare and fatal type of brain tumor called DIPG, or diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, there is no cure and treatments are heartbreakingly scarce. St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Mark Souweidane is on a mission to change the bleak statistics on DIPG survival. Learn about his groundbreaking work so far and what’s coming next.
BREAKING NEWS: The promising results of Dr. Souweidane’s groundbreaking research have just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Lancet Oncology! Supported by St. Baldrick’s, this Phase 1 clinical trial involved the injection of a cancer-fighting drug directly into the tumors of children with DIPG. There were exciting results — no serious side effects or dose-limiting toxicities were observed in the kids who participated, which means that the therapy has been deemed safe for use in pediatric patients. Thanks to St. Baldrick’s support, this promising trial will now expand to multiple institutions, giving hope to kids with this currently incurable, fatal tumor and to their families.
DIPG life expectancy is devastatingly short — with many kids dying within two years of diagnosis. Dr. Mark Souweidane wants to change that.
For kids with DIPG, treatment with radiation just lets them live a little while longer. Traditional chemo doesn’t work because of the blood-brain barrier. Tumor removal with surgery is out of the question, because the cancer is intertwined with the delicate tissues of the brainstem, which regulates breathing and other vital functions.
So, what does a doctor working on DIPG do to help these kids?
June is National Cancer Survivors Month and St. Baldrick’s is dedicated to funding research that saves more lives and helps more survivors! Thanks to donors like you, we’ve funded $17 million and counting in survivorship research grants, so kids with cancer can thrive after treatment ends. Take a peek at just a few of our grants that are making a big difference for childhood cancer survivors…
2014 Ambassador Lauren is a childhood cancer survivor and dreams of becoming a pediatric oncologist. She says she wouldn’t be here without childhood cancer research.
1. Dr. Jonathan Fish with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, St. Baldrick’s Scholar Grant
Dr. Jonathan Fish with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York.
Thanks to funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Dr. Fish and his colleagues were able to form the ‘Survivors Facing Forward’ program at New York’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in 2008. Since the beginning of the St. Baldrick’s award, the program has grown to follow over 625 survivors and is now one of the top survivorship programs in the New York area. The program provides survivors with an array of services – from oncology to psychology, cardiology, fertility counseling and many more – that are coordinated to meet their unique needs and help them live full, healthy lives. In addition, the program has served as a powerful platform for research into the challenges faced by survivors, including iron overload, vascular resistance, adherence to screening recommendations and genomics.
Pediatric oncologist and scientist Dr. Alex Kentsis isn’t afraid to dig into what makes childhood cancer tick, especially if his hard work results in better treatments for kids with cancer. That’s why he’s our newest winner of the St. Baldrick’s 2018 Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award – a unique three-year, $250,000 grant that gives researchers the freedom to follow the science, without the restrictions of traditional grants. Read on to learn about the innovative work he’s already doing for kids with cancer and how the Arceci award will move his promising research forward.
Dr. Alex Kentsis is a pediatric oncologist and scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a father of two and the newest Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award winner. Unlike traditional grants which come with restrictions and are specific and constrained in their scope, this three-year, $250,000 grant allows researchers the freedom and flexibility to follow their passion for kids’ cancer research, their curiosity and the science, wherever it leads.
Dr. Kentsis is a big fan of asking, ‘Why?’ – especially when it comes to the fundamental nature of childhood cancer. Unlike adults, kids haven’t had time to damage their DNA. They haven’t aged, smoked or stayed out in the sun too long — so why do they get cancer?
I have something exciting to tell you, but first, here’s something I heard and quickly scribbled down during a meeting about research priorities: “It’s like we caught lightning in a bottle – and you just don’t know when that will happen again.”
That was one of our expert advisers talking about the amazing, incredibly fast and impactful work of the Stand Up to Cancer – St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, funded jointly by the two organizations from 2013 through 2017. It was such a perfect description, it has stuck with me for more than a year.
This team of 150 researchers from eight institutions across North America has been working on new immunotherapy treatments for childhood cancers. In less than four years, their work is already saving lives.
Honored Kid Austin was diagnosed with a high-risk form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 2 years old. Now a survivor, he was one of the first kids treated on a trial of the immunotherapy Kymriah, which was developed with help from the Dream Team.
Every one of the experts who had looked closely at the team’s work agreed that this was work that must continue. To me, it was only natural for St. Baldrick’s to make that happen. And by St. Baldrick’s, I mean you – our donors and volunteers who make the funding possible.
So, I’m thrilled to announce that the Dream Team is back – with a new name and a continuing determination to find cures for childhood cancers.
The St. Baldrick’s – Stand Up to Cancer Pediatric Cancer Dream Team will continue from 2018 through 2022, with primary support from St. Baldrick’s.
With its recent commitment of $500,000 for the Target Pediatric AML initiative, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation adds another chapter to its long story of support for innovative and impactful research in childhood acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
While great progress has been made over many decades to help children survive the most common childhood cancer – acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – the same has not held true for children with AML.
St. Baldrick’s is helping change that.
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