Facts

A Force For Good: St. Baldrick’s + The Children’s Oncology Group

by Becky C. Weaver, Chief Mission Officer, St. Baldrick's Foundation
September 15, 2017

In the world of childhood cancer research, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) are two superheroes, teaming up to use their complementary strengths to save lives.

Dr. Mary Lou Schmidt with her patient, Isaac

Dr. Mary Lou Schmidt decorates pumpkins with her patient, Isaac, and his mom. Isaac is on a Children’s Oncology Group clinical trial that’s part of a unique tri-institutional clinical trial program in Chicago that’s supported by St. Baldrick’s.

Since March 17, 2000, when the very first St. Baldrick’s funds were raised to support the COG, the two organizations have always had a special relationship. In 2005 when St. Baldrick’s Foundation was launched, the COG remained its primary beneficiary.

And now, 17 years after that first show of support, one of the largest St. Baldrick’s investments each year is still in the COG.

This makes perfect sense, given who these two superpowers are. The COG is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. And the St. Baldrick’s Foundation funds more childhood cancer research grants than any organization, except the U.S. government.

The COG is made up of 10,000 experts at 220 institutions across North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Together they conduct clinical trials, offering patients either today’s state-of-the-art treatment or a cutting-edge new one that may prove to be better. Since data is collected from patients at all participating institutions – not just one or two – scientists learn more and faster, to benefit patients everywhere. Most of the progress in childhood cancer over the past 50 years can be directly tied to these cooperative group clinical trials.

About 100 COG clinical trials are active at any one time. In addition to testing new and emerging treatments, clinical trials are used to discover the underlying biology of childhood cancers. Supportive care studies also help improve the quality of life for patients and survivorship studies address the many long-term effects of even the most successful treatments.

Here are just some of the ways St. Baldrick’s funding helps the COG:

• Costs per patient - The average cost for a COG institution to treat a child on a clinical trial is $10,000. The U.S. National Cancer Institute reimburses $2,250 per patient, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation adds another $1,000. Without these funds, far fewer children could be treated on trials, and progress would slow significantly.

• Reference laboratories - These labs process, test and bank specimens from patients, but it’s not just about the lab. They also analyze individual patients’ tissues to determine the best treatments for those patients. After a government funding shortfall, St. Baldrick’s has supported the entirety of costs for reference labs for acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, neuroblastoma and soft-tissue sarcomas.

• High-Impact Initiative - To open a clinical trial takes a significant investment, so institutions must prioritize those for which they anticipate more patients. Since 2011, St. Baldrick’s has provided incentive funding to help more institutions open trials for which there is significant scientific value, but a smaller number of eligible patients. For instance, one helps determine the best treatment for AML patients with Down Syndrome.

Project:EveryChild - St. Baldrick’s is a lead funder for Project:EveryChild, an effort that aims to capture the biology and outcome of every child diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. and COG partner countries. This will form the foundation of discovery and new treatments for all children, no matter how rare their cancer type.

A nurse at the Vannie Cook clinic in McAllen, Texas, laughs with Alma, a patient there who has now finished treatment.

Alma, a nurse at the Vannie Cook clinic in McAllen, Texas, laughs with Leidy, a patient there who has now finished treatment. Thanks to St. Baldrick’s funding, the Vannie Cook clinic is able to bring clinical trials to patients who otherwise would not have access to that level of care.

Superhero organizations like the COG warrant super funding. Since 2005, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has granted more than $73 million to the Children’s Oncology Group.

Aside from this direct funding, other St. Baldrick’s grants have helped institutions meet the stringent requirements to become – or remain – members of the COG.

Many infrastructure grants fund the Clinical Research Associates who manage clinical trials at individual institutions. And most of the researchers who are awarded St. Baldrick’s funding of any kind are involved in the COG’s research as well.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is proud to be the largest private funder of the Children’s Oncology Group and with your support, we look forward to celebrating continued progress until the day when all childhood cancers can be cured.

You make progress to cures possible. Fund childhood cancer research today.

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